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RSF calls on Somalia’s new president to prioritise journalists’ safety

Tuesday May 17, 2022

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on his election day 15/05/2022

Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud – elected on Sunday 15 May by 54 senators and 275 lower house members from among 39 candidates – must make journalists’ safety a priority in a country were political violence and corruption have long prevailed over press freedom, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The long battle over who is to govern this Horn of Africa country with 16 million inhabitants for the next five years ended with the election of a man who was already president from 2012 to 2017. It is the first time a Somali president has been given a second term.

More than 30 journalists were killed during Mohamud’s first term, which was especially oppressive and violent for media personnel. His government was responsible for the draconian 2016 media law and worked to undermine media rights activists.

RSF calls on the newly elected president to lose no time in decreeing a moratorium on arrests of journalists, freeing detained journalists, and repealing legislation that restricts press freedom, including the 1964 penal code, which hampers the media’s pursuit of truth.

“In one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalism, where reporters are caught between the hammer of Al-Shabaab, who kill them with complete impunity, and the anvil of the security forces, who detain them arbitrarily without hesitation, the new president will have to take strong measures at once to change this bleak picture,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “After a first term that was very oppressive for journalists, he will have to show the world he is able to move the red lines regarding journalists’ safety and the protection of press freedom.”

Mohamud succeeds Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, whose presidency was marked by some unprecedented measures, including the appointment of a special prosecutor to take charge of investigating murders of journalists, and the conviction of a police officer in absentia for a journalist’s death. But no major press freedom reforms were completed under Farmaajo.

Yesterday’s election ends a period of uncertainty in which journalists were targeted by the security forces. The victims included Abdiaziz Haybe Ibrahim, whose equipment was seized during a police raid on his office while he covered the elections for SBC Somali TV.

Fifteen journalists were rounded up and held for several days in April in connection with their coverage of a prison riot in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a self-proclaimed independent republic in northwestern Somalia. Three are still unjustly held and are due to appear before a Hargeisa court for the third time on Tuesday 17 May. .

Somalia continues to be Africa’s most dangerous country for journalists, with a total of 65 violations against media personnel in 2021 alone, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). They included the murders of Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled and Jamal Farah Adan. Fifty journalists have been killed in Somalia since 2010.


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