Leaders of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) met yesterday the President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo, at Villa Somalia – Somalia’s governing house.
The delegation led by IFJ President Younes Mjahed, included the President of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmed, the Vice President of Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) Stephen Ouma Bwire, the Secretary General of National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) Omar Faruk Osman, and IFJ Gender Council Member Mounia Belafia.
The discussions centred on press freedom developments in Somalia, in particular on safety and security of journalists, professionalisation of journalists’ work and the enforcement of the right to freedom of association.
President Farmaajo expressed the total commitment of his government to protect freedom of expression and of association, highlighting that journalists have been free to do their work, even when their reporting at times bordered on incitement and sensationalism. He encouraged the IFJ to help their Somali colleagues enhance their professional ethics in order to ensure responsible journalism.
In his response, Mjahed acknowledged recent actions taken by the Federal Government of Somalia in prosecuting soldiers accused of mistreating working journalists and the changes that have been taking place to confront ingrained impunity, and create a better environment for journalists to do their work and exercise their right to freedom of association. He however pointed out to the horrendous challenges journalists in Somalia and their union, NUSOJ, had to endure for many years and applauded that the federal government had taken steps to draw a line behind the past history marred by recurrent abuses of journalists.
He said “the IFJ and its member unions worldwide as well as the global labour movement have supported NUSOJ and its members during the darkest hours where the Somali authorities clamped down free trade unionism, denied journalists of their right to peaceful assembly, and interfered with their union. We welcome the commitment in unequivocal terms by President Farmaajo to turn the page and carry through the State’s obligation of ensuring journalists’ safety.”
The IFJ delegation noted that the 5th General Assembly of NUSOJ being held in Mogadishu without being attacked and disbanded by State Security Apparatus was a major sign of change. The previous 4th General Assembly was disbanded in February 2016 by government security agents and had to be moved to Galkayo in the Puntland State of Somalia.
The delegation also met in her office the Federal Minister for Women and Human Rights Development, Ms. Deqa Yasin Haji Yusuf, to discuss support to women journalists, institutional protection of freedoms of expression and association, and the engagement of the IFJ with Somalia at the UN Human Rights Council where Somalia is currently a member. Minister Deqa Yasin spelt out the federal government’s engagement to uphold the basic human rights of its citizens such as journalists and women. Other meetings involved Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and Minister of Information Mohamed Abdi Hayir.
Mjahed concluded his visit by congratulating his hosts, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), for the success of their general assembly.
He said “I am proud to be the first IFJ president to come to Somalia to bring the greetings of unions of journalists worldwide to your fifth general assembly. We have for many years stood with Somali journalists, their union NUSOJ and its leaders despite the attacks and campaign of vilification carried out relentlessly by government agents and their hired hands who put a considerable effort to sow confusion and uncertainty among IFJ affiliates but failed. The IFJ delegation has witnessed a vibrant & representative general assembly that made us proud of the solidarity and resilience of Somali journalists who are in good hands as long as NUSOJ continues to thrive and grow.”