Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) in partnership with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) concluded a three-day training for more than 30 Somali journalists on Freedom of Expression: Rights and Responsibilities in Mogadishu between 30 December, 2020 – 1 January 2021. The journalists training covered key topics including: rights and responsibilities of journalist; differentiation between political campaign adverts; ethical reporting inline with the right to Freedom of Expression before, during and after Elections as well as rights and safety of women reporters. SJS distributed a translated Journalists Code of Ethics, which was first drafted in 2019. On the last day of the training, eight panelists from the media houses, community advocates and civil society members joined trainees to discuss on Freedom of Expression, its importance and challenges for journalists and Access to Information for the people's right to know followed by a question and answer session for the participants. Nasteho Mohamed Omar, a female freelance reporter with Radio Afgoye and Tusmo TV spoke about the specific challenges her female colleagues faced to carry out their duties. "Female journalists face special challenges that have led to a decrease in the number of reporters going to field assignment. I am delighted to learn very appropriate topics such as the safety of women reporters during the elections, the responsibility of journalists and the ethical way of reporting. I have traveled from Afgoye district, Lower Shabelle region to attend this training," she said "I am now ready to undertake reporting assignment and thanks to SJS and UNSOM for the arrangement of this training." Speaking at the panel discussion Diini Mohamed Diini, the former chairperson of the independent Somali Civil Society Coalition and former senior journalist referred the power of the journalists as the Fourth Estate in order to protect the public interest with bravery and professionalism. "If we fail to have an honest media that is capable to carry out its duties without fear or favor, that is when our public interest disappears. I strongly call for end of yellow journalism. It is a disgrace to the profession and is a threat to the principles of truthfulness and objectivity required for the journalists," he added. Media directors from Goobjoog Media, SBC TV, Tusmo TV and Eryal TV praised SJS efforts to protect Press Freedom, Freedom of Expression and the rights of journalists. Media directors clearly underlined that Somali people cannot effectively diminish their risk of becoming infected when they are denied accurate information, or when the government's actions undermines trust in the public domain. Goobjoog Deputy Director Abdiaziz Ahmed Gurbiye narrated his ordeal when he was arrested for writing an article on Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020, noting Freedom of Expression as a constitutional right enshrined in the Somali Constitution. "I was targeted and charged for only doing what I am supposed to do as a journalist. SJS was one of the organizations that stood with me. It is very concerning that fellow journalists are being subjected to constant threats and intimidation. We need to be united and strong," Mr. Gurbiye said. Mohamed Osman Makaran, the chairman of Somali Media Association (SOMA) proposed SJS journalists' union, and media managers need to partner in a united voice to safeguard Freedom of Expression for the public interest and to make sure that our media houses continue to advocate towards accountable and transparent governance in Somalia. "The reality is that we still need to have a unified voice. Recent joint efforts by SJS and SOMA have begun to create a collective and a united movement to defend freedom of expression and the rights of the journalists in Somalia, but we need to strengthen it," said Mr. Makaran who has travelled from central town of Beledweyne said. In his concluding remarks, Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and called for journalists not to hesitate to defend it when that right is violated. He thanked ambassador James Swan, the Special Representative for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for his commitment to support Somali journalists. "Freedom of the press is essential to enable democratic, free and participative societies. Strengthening the capacity of our journalists at this critical time ahead of the election is vital for both journalists the entire Somali community. Due to the experiences in the transitions, the media and journalists safety is entirely at risk, if the journalists are not properly trained," said Mr. Mumin. "I thank the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the UN Secretary General's Special Representative, ambassador James Swan for his continued support to the Somali journalists in this critical time. I want to praise the role of the brave female and male journalists who have paid the price to serve for the truth at all times," SJS Secretary Mumin concluded. "Let me conclude by saying that safety of Somali journalists, and their ability to pursue investigations and disseminate information for public interest during and after elections without censorship or threats, is a key element of democracy and good governance. Therefore journalists should be seen as protectors of the public interest," Mr. Mumin added.
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