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Journalists must be free to cover COVID-19 and upcoming elections-UNSOM head

Sunday May 3, 2020

MOGADISHU (HOL) - The media must be free to effectively report on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming general elections, the UN has said.

In his remarks to mark the World Press Freedom Day, UN chief in Somalia James Swan said state and non-state actors in Somalia in must endevour to protect the rights of journalists as they play a critical role in the country’s development.

“The media have a vital role to play in Somali society, from coverage of its political space to giving a voice to the vulnerable and marginalized,” Swan said.

“They need to be able to carry out their important work free from violence, harassment, detention, persecution, intimidation and censorship.”

Swan’s remarks which come amid an environment of hostility for media workers in Somalia noted it was critical to protect journalists to enable them cover the COVID-19 cases and upcoming elections without fear or favour.

Somalia is expected to hold parliamentary elections later in the year and the presidential vote will take place in early 2021.

Goobjoog Media Group journalist Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye was arrested last month over his coverage of COVID-19 and is currently out on bail while VOA journalist Haruf Maruf is facing alleged prosecution from the intelligence agency NISA. Several other journalists across Somalia and Somaliland are either facing charges or in detention.

“This would be the case at any time, but especially in this period as Somalia prepares for its national ‘one person, one vote’ elections. This is an historic occasion that requires a dynamic, free and safe media sector able to report without fear or favour,” Swan said.

“As the country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for the media to provide accurate and timely news coverage is also crucial for helping raise awareness which can save lives.”

The World Press Freedom Day is marked today with the theme: Journalism without Fear or Favour.

The theme notes the need for safety of women and men journalists and media workers, independent and professional journalism free from political and commercial influence, and gender equality in all aspects of the media.


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