During a UN Human Rights Council debate on Somalia in the presence of the independent expert on the human rights situation in this country, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) acknowledged the significant progress made in combatting impunity for crimes against Somali journalists but said it continued to be concerned about the hostile climate and asked the Council and Somalia’s partner countries to encourage the authorities to decree a moratorium on arrests of journalists as soon as possible.
The oral intervention by Isabel Amosse, RSF’s head of advocacy, during this inter-active debate on 2 October is appended below:
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the work of the independent expert on Somalia.
The state of press freedom continues to be concerning in this country, which is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
More than 50 journalists have been killed in the past ten years. This is the deadliest country for journalists in Africa and one of the most dangerous in the world.
Terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab, violent crime, the violent methods sometimes used by the security forces, corruption, and the control of parts of the country by non-state entities or entities that do not recognize the authority of the federal government result in an environment that is very hostile for journalists.
Significant progress has nonetheless been registered in the past two years. A policeman was sentenced in absentia for the murder of a journalist and two soldiers were discharged from the army for mistreating reporters after detaining them.
A special prosecutor was recently appointed to take charge of investigations into the murders of more than 50 journalists. He must be given the necessary resources to bring these investigations to a conclusion.
The initial prosecutions and convictions must become systematic and must be accompanied by the still-awaited creation of a national mechanism dedicated to the security and protection of journalists.
On the legislative front, the new media law promulgated in August falls far short of responding to the challenges. It failed to abolish prison sentences for press offences.
RSF calls on Somalia’s president to lose no time in decreeing a moratorium on arrests of journalists. More than 20 journalists were arbitrarily arrested in Somalia in 2019. We urge the Human Rights Council and Somalia’s partner countries to help bring about this moratorium.
I thank you.