Seminar on Freedom of Expression and Journalists’ Rights in State-building in Somalia was held at Jazeera Hotel in Mogadishu between 03 to 05 May 2015. Organizers of the seminar were the Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism, National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), VIKES from Finland and Relief International.
Attendees of the seminar included H.E. Mohamed Abdi Hayir (Mareye), the Minister of Information, Culture & Tourism, H.E. Sahra Mohamed Ali Samatar, the Minister of Women & Human Rights Development, Mohamed Ibrahim, the Secretary General of NUSOJ, representatives from Relief International, representatives from VIKES, State Minister & Deputy Minister of Information, Culture & Tourism, Abdirahman Mohamed Turyare, Chief of Somali National Intelligence, Senior officials from government institutions, and representatives from most of Somalia private media and civil society groups.
Participants of the seminar, which was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, express its serious concern regarding the killing of journalists in Somalia and calls on all concerned parties and in particular for the Government of Somalia to bring peace and stability in the country, which is prerequisite of the development of the media in Somalia. Stakeholders of the seminar strongly condemn all sorts of violence and in particular the killing of journalists and the barbaric acts of killers.
Stakeholders of the seminar reiterated the importance of freedom of expression and journalists’ rights, as it is prerequisite to the Media Development in Somalia. The provisional constitution of Somalia, Article 18 talks about Freedom of Expression and Opinions, which clearly shows how the government views the freedom of expression. The article says (1) Every person has the right to have and express their opinions and to receive and impart their opinion, information and ideas in any way. (2) Freedom of expression includes freedom of speech, and freedom of the media, including all forms of electronic and web-based media. (3) Every person has the right to freely express their artistic creativity, knowledge, and information gathered through research. Article 32. Talks the Right of Access to Information, which says “(1) Every person has the right of access to information held by the state. (2) Every person has the right of access to any information that is held by another person which is required for the exercise or protection of any other just right. (3) Federal Parliament shall enact a law to ensure the right of access to information. Participants of the seminar welcomes this and encourages the parliament to speedy up the process to enact a law to ensure the right of access to information.
Therefore, stakeholders of the seminar calls on all key stakeholders in Somali media to work as partners for the interest of their mutual understanding on how to further develop Somali media, which is very important to the society. As Security institutions elaborated in the seminar, participants of the seminar urges media practitioners to be mindful the national security issues when reporting information about terrorists’ group, as some of the information could have serious repercussions to citizens, to the country, to the region and to the world at large.
In this regard, stakeholders of the seminar welcome the huge progress made so far in the development of Somalia and the bravery of Somali journalists who have been working in very difficult environment. Participants of the seminar urge all Somali media stakeholders to find a common understanding on improving the capacity of media professionals in the country.
Stakeholders of the seminar further welcome the role of International and local NGOs working on media development in Somalia. However, participants of the seminar urge all sides to have excellent partnership working with the Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism in order to streamline all efforts and to avoid duplications. Participants of the seminar and organizers reiterate its commitment to have partnership working will all key stakeholders in order to improve the coordination mechanism.
Stakeholders of the seminar express their great appreciation for the important work of the Government of Finland and VIKES organization towards Somalia. Participants of the seminar and organizers further express their great appreciation of the private media in Somalia and all organizations working in Somalia.
Participants of the seminar and organizers call for the urgent need to finalize the media law and therefore, would urge the parliament to speedy up the process of the debate and approval of the media law. The Media Law is important in order to start the process of establishing Somali Media Council that will deal on all complaints from media, as this will reduce the current dispute between security and media professionals.
Stakeholders of the seminar and organizers recognize the urgent need for more resources and material support to Somali media houses, journalists including private and public media houses. Participants of the seminar and organizers urge the international community to address this together with the need for an accelerated support towards capacity building and incentives that can encourage the freedom of expression.
Participants of the conference appealed to the Ministry of information to find funding in order to hold a 5 day National Consultation Seminar on Somali Media development plan. Participants of the seminar calls the urgent need to bring all key stakeholders on media including government officials, Federal member state Ministries of Information and spokespersons, Somali private media house representatives, media professions, International and local organizations and civil society groups with the aim of devising 5 year plan and strategy on Somali Media Development.