World Press Freedom Day, commemorated today, 3 May 2023, highlights the vital role played by journalists and news media organizations in furthering social development and ensuring that citizens enjoy their fundamental right to freedom of expression. This year’s chosen theme – “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights” – sends out the clear message that, without this freedom, human rights cannot be guaranteed.
To mark World Press Freedom Day, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) appeals to the Federal Government of Somalia, as a duty-bearer, to set a positive precedent by taking swift action to implement the key benchmarks for press freedom and freedom of expression that are enshrined in the country’s Provisional Constitution. We hereby call on the Government to:
1. Declare, as a matter of urgency, a moratorium on the arbitrary arrest and prosecution of journalists for carrying out their professional duties. Historically, working journalists have been taken to court under an obsolete penal code which is inconsistent with the Provisional Constitution and with Somalia’s international human rights obligations. The moratorium should remain in place until the penal code has been fully reformed.
2. Enact an Access to Information Law as stipulated in Article 32 of the Provisional Constitution and in line with the African Union Model Law on Access to Information. Although access to information is an inalienable democratic right of all Somali citizens and is essential to Somalia’s successful transition to democracy, no progress has been made in developing the necessary legislation since the Provisional Constitution was adopted more than 10 years ago.
3. Break the cycle of impunity associated with crimes committed against journalists and hold perpetrators to account by empowering the Office of the Special Prosecutor to conduct credible investigations into such crimes and, thereby, ensure that all guilty parties are brought to justice.
Drawing on our deep knowledge of the immense challenges faced by journalists in Somalia, we urge all key stakeholders to lend their support to making press freedom a reality for the media community in Somalia and unlocking its potential to promote full respect for human rights.