UN HRC: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia

Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia

Oral statement

28 September 2016

Delivered by Andrew Smith, ARTICLE 19

Mr. President,

We welcome the report of the Independent Expert on Somalia, and endorse the recommendations relating to freedom of expression. 

More than two decades of civil war in Somalia have created extreme challenges for the media, with the country remaining one of the deadliest for journalists in the world. Since 2011, at least 38 media professionals have been killed in Somalia, and only three cases have led to any accountability at the Federal and regional levels.

We condemn the murder on 8 June 2016 of Sagal Osman, a young woman broadcaster for state-run Somali National Television and Radio Mogadishu.

We join the Independent Expert and other special procedures in condemning the attempted assassination of journalist Omar Farouk Osman, as well government threats to prosecute him.

All attacks against journalists must be fully investigated and perpetrators held to account. Other journalists identified as at risk much be protected. Pervasive impunity creates a climate of self-censorship and has led to many journalists fleeing the country. 

We are also deeply concerned at the routine harassment of journalists, including through arbitrary arrest and detention by Somali security forces and non-state actors. From January 2014 to July 2016, UNSOM recorded 120 cases of arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists and media workers.

On 22 April 2016, Mr. Muusejaambiir, Chairman of the newspaper Xogogaal was arrested alongside two other journalists. They were not informed of the reasons for their arrest and charges were not brought.

We condemn Al-Shabaab and other militias’ blocking of radio signals and prohibitions on individuals listening to certain radio stations. We additionally condemn actions taken by the government to force the closure of media outlets. This includes the 27 April 2016 closure of critical newspaper “Codka-Shacabaa” (Voice of the people) and 30 June 2016 closure of radio station Daljir for interviewing the recently sacked Governor of Bari Administrative Region.

Media freedom is also eroded through judicial harassment, which we call on Federal and regional authorities to cease. Articles 220 and 328 of the Somali Penal Code, which criminalise insult against the honour of the Head of State and dissemination of “false, exaggerated or misleading information likely to disturb public order” must be repealed. In Somaliland, defamation must be decriminalised.

While the promulgation of the Somalia National Media Law in 10 January 2016 brings with it some progress, it does not fully protect media freedom. For example, it retains powers for the Ministry of Information to authorize all private media, and requires permission for foreign media to operate, and includes severe penalties for media that infringe the law. We call for the urgent review of these provisions to safeguard the independence of media in the country. We reiterate the recommendation of the Independent Expert and of UNSOM and OHCHR in their joint report that Somalia must “ensure that the Media Council is independent, and is able to operate in line with international human rights norms and standards.”

Thank you.