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Launch of a National Program to Promote the Role and Place of Somali Journalists in Preventing Violent Extremism.

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has launched a nation-wide program designed to equip media and civil society actors in Somalia, with the communication tools to counter and prevent violent extremism in the country. The program emphasizes the use of coherent communication strategies and inclusive locally-led efforts for positive narrative and effective reporting.

The program which will be replicated across the country, was launched August 1, with a three-day training workshop for 45 journalists on the “Triple nexus of Safe Journalism, Preventing Violent Extremism and Effective Reporting by the Media”.

The programme, which is supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), puts journalists and media professionals at the root of the action to advance Positive Communication and Response in Somalia, as envisaged by the National Strategy and Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE). PCVE recognizes the role of influencers in the operationalisation, implementation and monitoring of the National Strategy and Action Plan on prevention and countering violent extremism.

The program also places emphasis on the safety and professional excellence of journalists in reporting on prevention and countering violent extremism which has gravely impacted working journalists.

“As frontline actors who have often been targets and victims of violent extremism, the media in Somalia have a vested interest in fighting extremism in all its guises. And as custodians of a powerful tool, it is only logical that journalists and the media in general should be a focal element in any effort that seeks to address this malignant and indiscriminate evil,” said NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman.

Through the program, the capacity of Somali journalists and media workers to prevent violent extremism, and counter negative narratives of violence, will be enhanced through training in purpose-driven reporting.

U.S. Ambassador to Somalia, H.E. Larry André Jr who presided over the launch as Chief Guest, restated his unwavering support for safety of journalists, professional excellence, and that media freedom is an essential component of Somalia’s revival as a secure, prosperous, peaceful, and democratic nation.

In his keynote address, H.E Mr. Luke Williams, the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya and Somalia decried the precarious, violent and dangerous environment in which journalists operate in Somalia and the unique risks to which it exposes female journalists in particular.

He observed that in the crowded space for information, where journalists were up against instant, unverified sources bombarding the public with information, journalists can only stand out and retain their influence by being professional.

“In this era where media content is readily available, production of high-quality media content that explores important policy issues like preventing violent extremism, and is at the same time inclusive of a wide range of stakeholder voices, is no mean feat.  Excellence and ethical reporting will transform journalism and propel Somali journalists to a global arena. So, I encourage Somali journalists to tell their own stories – ones that matter to them and ones that matter to Somalia and to our region” Williams said.

Speaking during the same event, H.E. Fiona Lortan, the Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), who is also the Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, reaffirmed the AU’s commitment to protection of journalists, ending violence and support for journalism that advocates for a peaceful and stable Somalia where free expression is respected and enjoyed.

Dr. Martha Njiiri, the Head of Strategic Communications at IGAD’s Centre of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (ICEPCVE), expressed support for this NUSOJ-led program and reiterated IGAD’s willingness to coordinate with NUSOJ and implement an exchange program that will see Somali journalists gain exposure and experience.

“I take this opportunity to extend IGAD’s appreciation to Somali journalists and media practitioners who continue to play their dutiful role through effective reporting, to prevent violent extremism and counter narratives of terrorism, so as to enhance peace, stability and development in Somalia,” Dr Njiiri said.

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