UN envoy calls for free, independent media in Somalia

MOGADISHU- The UN top envoy in Somalia on Thursday called for free and independent news media in the Horn of Africa nation where journalists operate in difficult environment as the World Press Freedom Day is marked across the globe.

Michael Keating, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia also lauded the courage and dedication of the country’s journalists who operate in one of the world’s most dangerous environments for media workers.

“I salute the hundreds of Somali journalists who risk their lives on a regular basis to do their job,” said Keating in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

“A truly free and independent news media is indispensable in all democratic societies, an essential means to hold the powerful to account. An essential component for the media to do its job is ending the culture of impunity that, unfortunately, prevails for crimes committed against journalists,” he added.

The UN envoy urged lawmakers to resume their deliberations over an amended version of Somalia’s 2016 Media Law and give due consideration to a list of recommended changes to the law submitted by the country’s leading media associations last year.

He said this year’s theme “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law” is particularly relevant to Somalia.

According to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), no one has been brought to justice for the murders of 26 journalists over a ten-year period, and for the third consecutive year Somalia was given the worst track record worldwide for unsolved murders of journalists in the CPJ’s 2017 Global Impunity Index.

Keating said the Human Rights and Protection Group of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, which he heads, has documented continuing violations of the right to freedom of expression, including the closure or suspension of 14 media outlets in Somalia since August 2016.

He said the rights protection group has also documented media violations including arbitrary arrest and detention of 131 people for reasons related to freedom of expression since then.