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Thirty IFEX members sign letter to authorities regarding attacks against journalists

(IFJ/NUSOJ/IFEX) - 31 May 2011 - Free expression advocates from around the world gathered this week in Beirut, Lebanon, at the 16th IFEX General Meeting. Thirty IFEX members signed on to the following letter:

To: Sheik Sherif Sheik Ahmed
Transitional Federal Government of Somalia
Mogadishu – Somalia

To: Ahmed M. Mahamoud Silanyo
Somaliland Government
Hargeisa - Somaliland

We, the undersigned members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) gathered in Beirut, Lebanon for the 16th IFEX General Meeting and Strategy Conference; condemn the increased attacks and judicial harassment against Somali journalists and media organisations.

Over the past several months, authorities in Hargeisa, Somaliland, have stepped up legal action against journalists and news media organisations, including trumped up charges of defamation, libel, false news and insults. This harassment includes journalists from five newspapers (Saxafi Newspaper, Hargeisa Star, Ogaal Newspaper, Yool Newspaper and Waheen newspaper). The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), an IFEX member, has condemned the routine and deliberate acts of judicial harassment, which serve as a way of deterring journalists from performing their professional duties.

In addition to the judicial harassment, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has arrested several journalists, including Radio Shabelle director Abdirashid Omar Qase Abdi, and editor Abdi Mohammed Ismail.

Since January 2011, the Ministry of Information has also been pursuing efforts to undermine the NUSOJ and deny the union its autonomy. On 22 May, the main offices of NUSOJ were raided and robbed by four armed men. The TFG has not done anything to guarantee the safety of the NUSOJ staff and offices.

In the meanwhile, the media law reform process in Somaliland has been a serious concern to the journalistic community. As the media law is currently undergoing a review, several clauses of this law are either misinterpreted in court or ignored.

We therefore call on:

- The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to stop all attacks against journalists and media organisations;

- The TFG to refrain from further attempts to undermine the work of NUSOJ;

- The Somaliland authorities to cease pursuing legal action against independent journalists and newspapers in Hargeisa and allow them to operate without fear of persecution;

- The Somaliland authorities to accelerate media law reform in line with international freedom of the press standards and the development of the access to information law to promote free expression and a democratic media space in Somaliland.

National Union of Somali Journalists
International Federation of Journalists
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Free Media Movement
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Index on Censorship
Maharat Foundation
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Media Watch
Mizzima News
Norwegian PEN
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
PEN International
Public Association "Journalists"
West African Journalists Association

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