Somalia: UN rights expert calls for release of arrested journalists, end of threats to media

Somalia: UN rights expert calls for release of arrested journalists, end of threats to media

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An independent United Nations human rights expert today called for the unconditional release of three journalists arrested in Somalia and voiced “deep concern” at the temporary closing of radio and television stations, stressing the vital importance of free media in bringing peace to the war-torn country.

“Threats to journalists and media outlets constitute serious violations of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Ghanim Alnajjar, said in a statement today.

“A free and independent press which does not fear any party is crucial to restoring peace and security in Somalia. This is worrying and I condemn these actions and reiterate that the media must be allowed to perform its duties without apprehension,” he added.

The three journalists, Yusuf Abdi Gabode, Ali Abdi Din and Mohamed Omar Sheikh Ibrahim, employed by the Haatuf Media Network were arrested as a result of their work in ‘Somaliland’ in the north of the country and several other people have been arrested or detained for supporting the three or demonstrating against their arrests,” Mr. Alnajjar said.

He also noted that three radio stations and the office of a television station in Mogadishu, the capital, were also temporarily closed by the Transitional Federal Government in January.

“I am deeply concerned over recent threats to the right to freedom of opinion and expression in different parts of Somalia,” he declared. “I call upon the ‘Somaliland’ authorities to release the three journalists without conditions.

“I also remind all Somali authorities of their obligation to respect the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to ensure the safety and security of all, including journalists and other media professionals.”

Somalia has been without a functioning government since Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime was ousted in 1991. Late last year, the transitional Government, backed by Ethiopian troops, dislodged Islamist forces from much of the country.

The Security Council has authorized the deployment of a peace support mission to be run by the African Union (AU) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an east African grouping.

Meanwhile, the top UN envoy for Somalia, François Lonsény Fall, on Friday attended a meeting of International Contact Group on Somalia – a set of countries and organizations including the UN – to review the current political, security, development and humanitarian situation in the country. At the conference held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Group pledged its support to the Transitional Federal Government in its efforts to promote national unity, and also to the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Somali people as they pursue an inclusive political process.