The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is facing fierce internal challenges after the council of the union lost its legitimacy and cracks appear with in the council where two warring groups are each claiming to be the legitimate supreme council.
As it is posted on the organization’s website, NUSOJ was set up in 2005 to promote and protect freedom of the press. The organization was formally dedicated for the purpose of serving the member journalists’ interests and needs with respect to journalists’ rights, press freedom and working conditions. The members of the organization was then mainly journalists from Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
Following years as new media houses were established in other regions of Somalia, other Somali journalists saw much in the prospective of a such union in a war ravaged Somalia. Journalists around the country were also willing to became members of the union in order to unite their voices.
The union was widely supported by the international journalist organizations such as IFJ (International Federation of Journalists) and foreign donors, who perceived NUSOJ as the voice of all Somali journalists.
After many years since the creation of the union, people are wondering what were the achievements of the union, so far?
Internal infighting, allegations of misuse of funding and lack of coherent working ethics diluted the name, the respect and the legitimacy of the union within the Somali journalists.
The leadership of the union, simply dismissed the wide range of allegations against them, blaming their critics and even sacking some of the council members who voiced the need for change. They also failed to hold the planned general assembly of the union which was scheduled in 2008, consequently prolonging their term in office for another 3 years.
On February 2011, NUSOJ’s infighting reached a new boiling point, cracks appeared with in the supreme council of the union, which eventually lead to the removal of the President and Secretary General.
On 10th of February, members of the Supreme Council of NUSOJ met in Mogadishu in an extraordinary meeting sacking the President Abdirisaq Omar Ismail and Secretary-General Omar Faruk Osman. They named a new President and Secretary general to lead during the transition period.
A Statement released by the council members said;
“…The former Secretary General of the union, Omar Faruk Osman has been accused of extreme fraud, obtaining money from the International Federation of Journalists’ (IFJ) Safety Fund and other donors (belonging to wounded/killed journalists at 2009 Shamo Hotel bombing and money meant for widows and orphans of killed colleague journalists and others….”
The Statement added:
“…..By false pretenses and for over-staying in the office and for refusing to convene a General Assembly meeting on August 2008 with the help of Abdirisaq Omar Ismail, the former president of the council, in complete violation of the NUSOJ Constitution and which goes against the merits of democracy. The meeting observed that Omar and Abdirisaq had also become dictatorial and was not therefore serving the interest of the members but their own interest. Their continued stay at the leadership of the union has only worked to earn NUSOJ a negative name….”
The sacked member refused to accept the decision by the supreme council, in return they hastily called for a general assembly on 14th of March in Mogadishu, hand picked journalists were invited to participate the conference which is organized by the sacked Secretary General Omar Faruk.
Furthermore, journalists are asking themselves why these meetings are organized in Mogadishu? Many journalists have fled the city because of the insecurity, it seems Mogadishu is the last place to hold a general assembly of the union.
Mr.Omar Faruk and others were widely known for their campaign for donations and rescuing media workers in Mogadishu, due to the targeting of journalists in the city. It is quite strange that Mr.Faruk is now organizing the long overdue general assembly in such city and in such short time!
These recent developments are worrying to many independent journalists and also members of the union. But it does not come as a surprise, most Somali journalists say the union’s commitment to promote high standards in media and journalism is long ago lost, due to the bad leadership of NUSOJ.
What NUSOJ needs is a complete change of structure by starting with a genuine dialogue within the member journalists from “All” regions of Somalia. In order to setup a legitimate council and elect competent and honest leadership.
The leadership must be held accountable and they should respect the constitution of the union.
Moreover inclusive participation of journalists from all regions of Somalia is vital to the existence of a such National Union.
There is also a role to play for the international donors and partners of NUSOJ, they should support the call for change within the union and help the Somali journalists regain their united voice.