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Church Court Chambers’ Michael Polak has submitted communications to the Independent Expert on Human Rights in Somalia, the Human Rights Council, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression on behalf of the Somali Journalist Syndicate, an independent journalists’ trade union set up to highlight and support Somali journalists against ‘a barrage of attacks against the press, predominantly perpetrated by state actors.’
These Communications allege that the Somali authorities are in breach of both their positive and negative international obligations and in breach of the Constitution through their continuous attack on journalism which has included assaults, disappearances, arbitrary detention, closing down press and broadcast outlets, the seizure of equipment, and generally creating an atmosphere which has resulted in Somalia being one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.
The submission of the communication was marked by an event held online on 20 August 2020 which was attended by Somali and international journalists, NGO’s focused on the protection of journalists, as well as representatives of the United Nations.
Michael Polak stated:
“The freedom of journalists to do their job without having to fear attacks and repression by the authorities is essential for the development of any country. The clear evidence shows that the Somalian Government and Somaliland authorities are failing to comply with their international and domestic legal obligations by continuing to attack, arbitrarily detain, and censure brave hardworking Somalian journalists.
We hope that these communications to the United Nation’s bodies, which have been set up specifically to protect people in situations where State authorities are refusing to do so, will shine a light on what is taking place against journalists in Somalia and inform the authorities that their actions are being noted both by the Somali people and the international community.
We call on the international community, including NGO’s and Somalia’s development partners, not to forget the importance of journalism in Somalia and the vulnerability of journalists there. It is our obligation to give them a voice at every opportunity and to demand that the authorities cease to breach their international obligations and the Constitution of Somalia.’
Mr Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) stated the following:
“Attacks against the press has dramatically increased leading many journalists to self-censor or face arbitrary arrests. Press freedom and freedom of expression are basic constitutional right entitled to every Somali citizen. These rights must be preserved and protected in order for the journalists and media stations to be able to freely inform the public.
SJS has documented the violations against the press across Somalia round the clock and what we have been witnessing, if not stopped, would put the whole journalism profession in danger. We call on the Somali federal government, federal member states and Somaliland authorities to stop the gross violations committed by their security forces, police and organs of their administrations.”
The full Press Statement can be found here.
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