Marking World Press Freedom Day, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, today commended the courage and dedication of the country’s journalists who operate in one of the world’s most dangerous environments for media workers.
“I salute the hundreds of Somali journalists who risk their lives on a regular basis to do their job,” said Mr. Keating. “A truly free and independent news media is indispensable in all democratic societies, an essential means to hold the powerful to account. An essential component for the media to do its job is ending the culture of impunity that, unfortunately, prevails for crimes committed against journalists.”
This year’s observance of the day is taking place under the theme ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law.’ The theme is particularly relevant to Somalia: according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), no one has been brought to justice for the murders of 26 journalists over a ten-year period, and for the third consecutive year Somalia was given the worst track record worldwide for unsolved murders of journalists in the CPJ’s 2017 Global Impunity Index.
The Human Rights and Protection Group of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which Mr. Keating heads, has documented continuing violations of the right to freedom of expression, including the closure or suspension of 14 media outlets in Somalia between August 2016 and March 2018 and the arbitrary arrest and detention of 131 people for reasons related to freedom of expression during the same period.
The UN Special Representative urged members of the Federal Parliament to resume their deliberations over an amended version of Somalia’s 2016 Media Law and give due consideration to a list of recommended changes to the law submitted by the country’s leading media associations last year.
UNSOM and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will issue a public report later this year that details the continuing restrictions on press freedoms in Somalia since they jointly published a 2016 report on the right to freedom of expression.