24 June 2016
Delivered by Andrew Smith
Mr Vice President,
ARTICLE 19 thanks Member States for their recommendations to Somalia during its second UPR review, and welcomes Somalia’s acceptance of Latvia’s recommendation to end impunity for attacks against journalists.
Somalia’s Constitution protects the right to freedom of expression and opinion under Article 18. While the promulgation of the Somalia National Media Law is a positive step, we are concerned that it does not sufficiently protect media freedom. It reinforces state control over the media, and puts too much power in the Ministry of Information to authorise private media and give permission for the operation of foreign media. We call for the urgent review of these provisions to safeguard the independence of media in the country.
More than two decades of civil war in Somalia have created extreme challenges for the media, with the country remaining one of the deadliest for journalists in the world. Since 2011, at least 38 media professionals have been killed in Somalia, and only three cases have been held to account so far at the Federal and regional levels.
In particular, we condemn the murder on 8 June 2016 of Sagal Osman, a young woman broadcaster for state-run Somali National Television and Radio Mogadishu. The perpetrators must be held to account, and other journalists identified as at risk much be protected.
Journalists are routinely harassed in the course of their work, arbitrarily arrested and detained by Somali security forces and non-state actors. Al-Shabaab and other armed militias continue to abusively restrict freedom of expression, including by blocking radio signals or prohibiting individuals from listening to certain radio stations. Impunity for murders and other attacks against journalists has led to many media workers and journalists fleeing the country, with others self-censoring.
Judicial harassment is also a concern. There is an urgent need to reform the Somali Penal Code, in particular to repeal Article 220, which criminalises offense against the honour and prestige of the Head of State; repeal Article 328, which criminalises the publication or dissemination of false, exaggerated or misleading information likely to disturb public order. In the autonomous region of Somaliland, defamation is a criminal offence, and is routinely used as the basis to harass, arbitrarily detain, charge and convict journalists.
ARTICLE 19 therefore calls upon Somalia to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment where human rights defenders, journalists and civil society could operate freely and unhindered. It also encourages it to take all necessary measures to protect journalists from harassment and attacks and to ensure all such cases are investigated.