A two-day congress of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) which was held at Hayat hotel in Mogadishu between 21-22 June 2019, concluded with a launching ceremony on Saturday with a call to defending press freedom and trade union rights.
Representatives from Somali media, Ministry of Labor, Members of the Parliament, representatives from civil society organizations and journalists from different sectors of the media gathered for the official launch of the union.
The launching ceremony was officially opened with the recitation of Quran, followed by welcoming remarks by SJS vice president Omar Mohamed and SJS Gender secretary Nafiso Hersi Mohamed who both thanked the participants for their time.
Ms Nafiso Hersi Mohamed stressed the need to empower women journalists by providing training and also supporting journalists in holding leadership positions and raising their voices.
“Female journalists in Somalia are increasingly coming into this profession but unfortunately the workplaces are not changing to adopt the needs of the women in the media. SJS stands to be on the forefront in sensitizing the rights of women in the media.” Ms. Mohamed said.
SJS Vice President Omar Said Mohamed gave a brief introduction about the Somali Journalists Syndicate and the motives behind its foundation.
“Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) came for the interest of the working journalists, we strive to safeguard their freedoms and their trade union rights,” Mr Omar Mohamed, SJS Vice president said “SJS represents its members by providing professional services including advocacy, trainings, legal defense and giving them a voice both in the public and the workplace.”
“SJS represents the working journalists who are members of SJS and the wider journalists who need our support. Our legal defense team is on standby to defend if journalist is in trouble on issues related to his journalism work,” Mr. Mumin told those attended the launching event.
“Our plan is to establish a fully equipped training centre and fundraise for the support of journalists who either lose jobs or get injured or killed. Through the membership fees, we shall provide priority-based trainings for member journalists in addition to creating networking opportunities with regard to job opportunities and other benefits,” Mr Mumin further noted.
The Secretary-General also announced that SJS already started engagement with local hospitals to set up a scheme of health benefits where a discounted treatment will be provided member journalists and their families through.
Mohamed Ad’eed Ali, the director of Somalia’s Non-State Actors (SONSA) — a coalition of Civil Society Organizations — has endorsed the launch of SJS as an independent trade union journalists-owned organization.
“Media is an integral part of the civil society. We welcome SJS’s launch. Our part is to welcome you and be with you whenever you need our hand,” Mr. Ad’eed said.
Secretary General of the Somali Media Association (SOMA), Mohamed Abduwahab Abdullahi, the largest media employers’ association in Somalia, has praised new SJS leadership’s initiative toward serving and defending rights of member journalists as he urged working journalists to seek membership.
“Our organization has over 33 media stations across the country and we need a trade union journalist organization like SJS to represent the interest of our employees. We urge our journalists to seek membership at SJS,” said Mr. Abdullahi of SOMA.
Chairperson of Somalia’s Upper House Sub-committee on Media, Social and Cultural Affairs, Senator Nadir Jama while speaking on the launch emphasized the importance of free and independent media for enriching Somalia’s democratic institutions and promised that journalists will have
“We praise the leaders of SJS particularly Abdalle Mumin and Mohamed Ibrahim Bakistan whom we knew their efforts towards supporting and protecting Somali journalists,” Senator Jama added “As members of the Federal Parliament, we will support SJS leaders and we will make sure that their concerns towards the amendment of the Media Law are heard. We will invite SJS to bring their input.”
Senator Jama told the audience at the event that majority of Somali parliamentarians believe that freedom of the press is a vital component of the Somali Federal Constitution and that any restrictive laws against press freedom will not be endorsed under their watch.
Senator Naima Ibrahim, a member of Somalia’s Upper House, who spoke on the launching event hailed the leadership of the Somali journalists Syndicate in their journey in defending the journalists’ freedoms and trade union rights and noted that the doors of the Federal parliament will be open for engagement.
“We support SJS leaders in their journey to journalist’s rights and trade union rights, however we want female journalists’ rights be on the top of the agenda.” Senator Naima Ibrahim said, “As members of Somali Federal Parliament, our doors are open for your engagement. We will listen to you and will help Somali journalists”
Said Adan Mire, Director of Labor Affairs at Somalia’s Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, has noted the poor working conditions of the journalists and the Somali workers in general and highlighted the upcoming Labor law will enforce media houses to pay decently their workers including journalists and camera operators and technicians.
”The government is working on Minimum Wages Act which will enforce media houses to pay a descent pay to their journalists. Our Ministry is committed to implement this law once it is amended,” Said Adan Mire, Director of Labor Affairs at Somalia’s Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs “We understand that Somali journalist are least paid among other professions. That has to change. My call to SJS leadership is to make sure that all media houses enforce formal contracts with their employees and pay decent salaries.”
At the end of the launching event, parliamentarians, Ministry of Labor officials, journalists including female reporters and camera operators and members of SJS joined for a call to press freedom and trade union rights.
The congress calls:
- Unity among journalists and media workers,
- Authorities to guarantee independence of the media,
- Bring media legislation in line with the provisional Federal Constitution and international human rights standards,
- Repeal laws criminalizing the dissemination of critical reporting,
- Safety and protection for endangered Somali journalists,
- To protect the rights of the journalists through proper job contracts.
- Authorities to be mindful that a free and fearless media is the only solution to a health society.