As the New Year begins in 2020, the Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) has begun consultations with journalists in different parts of the country for the key strategic priorities of next year to raise their voices in concern about the fast-shrinking space for the free expression of ideas and opinions and increasingly limited access to information for the media and citizens of Somalia
Members of the FESOJ leadership reached to Garowe, the capital of Puntland State, where they held private and public meetings with journalists and managers of private media to study the existing challenges and recommendations FESOJ should focus on during the beginning new year soon.The main general meeting took place at the City View hotel in Garowe on the evening of December 25th where journalists, leaders of Puntland Media Association MAP and the biggest Puntland civil society umbrella, Puntland Non-State Actors (PUNSAA) attended.
First of all, FESOJ Secretary General Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu thanked to journalists for the warm welcome in Garowe, pointed out that there is good working relationship and cooperation between the Media Association of Puntland (MAP) and FESOJ.Moalimuu said the purpose of their trip was to listen to Somali journalists, especially those in Puntland for their recommendations on where to focus in the year 2020.He also called on journalists to register and take the membership card, especially journalists who registered but not yet taken the card.
Faysal Ahmed Warsame Chairman of Puntland Non-State Actors (PUNSAA) said the civil society groups fully support journalists and their leaders to overcome constraints to serve the public, it is therefore so important to establish a system of direct cooperation and continuous communication between journalist organizations and civil society.
Mohamed Dahir Ceysane, chairman of the MAP, who spoke at the event, noted that in the year 2019 journalists have experienced various forms of violence throughout Somalia but now it is necessary to think about that those violations shouldn’t return in 2020.
After long brainstorming and discussion Journalists summarized the main challenges for the year 2019 the following points
• Difficulty in obtaining facts and information in the absence of access toinformation• Use of criminal libel or criminal defamation laws against journalists ormedia organizations that write on sensitive topics.• Use of sedition laws to punish journalists or media organizations thatwrite stories or articles critical of government officials.
• Less-payment of salaries to journalists or excessively long delays in thepayment of salaries resulting in financial pressures on them to be vulnerable for bribes.• Prohibitive costs of defending libel cases against journalists and mediaorganizations.• Possibility of assassination or torture of media professionals whoinvestigate or report cases of corruption or write other negative storiesor articles.• Forcing journalists to flee or go into exile or underground for writingnegative or critical stories or articles.• Arrests and detention of journalists for writing negative or criticalarticles or stories.
• Online harassment and other forms of intimidation of journalists and media organizations.• Closure of media organizations or facilities by security agents for writing critical or negative stories or articles.• Withdrawal of accreditation to enter or cover government departments and offices• Denial of access to news conferences and other events, etc.• Death threats and other threats of physical attack for investigating orreporting on sensitive issues or for writing critical or negative articles• Placing journalists under surveillance, etc.
There are no easy answers or solutions to the challenges However, journalists and media workers proposed the following strategies, ideas and approaches for consideration:
• Media organizations and individual journalists should campaign for adoption of access of information law in Somalia since Provisional Federal Constitution guarantees it.• FESOJ and other journalist organizations to monitor attacks on journalists, issue local and international alerts on the attacks as well as provide other forms of support.• Journalists should be trained on how to ensure their safety while on dangerous assignments.
• Journalists should be better trained to equip them for the challenge of covering corruption and other socio-political issues more effectively. Since most media houses cannot send their journalists for further training• Journalists should be trained on how to ensure their safety while on dangerous assignments.• Media organizations and companies should explore creative ways of reducing their operational costs and increasing revenue to strengthen their financial base.
• In order to recognize and reward journalists and media organizations that have shown courage, creativity, resourcefulness, etc
• The training currently available to journalists is limited to a few days, long-term training or diploma are needed
On the other hand, FESOJ team conducted meetings with three local media administrators and fellow journalists based in Garowe.
This initiative is part of the second implementation phase of a joint VIKES and FESOJ project, launched last year and funded by the EU in which were trained around 200 journalists and media administrators.
The main objective of the advocacy campaign for Somali journalists’ labor rights was:To discuss with the journalist employees and make a baseline assessment of thesituation at each media house and their challenges
To discuss with the employee how they can get better organized to start campaigning for their rights to collective bargaining, winning better working conditions and extending social justice and professional rights.