Somalia top judge vows to help journalists beat impunity

Friday November 03 2023

In Somalia, journalists are often targeted by militant groups Al Shabaab and those seen as critical of their terror have paid the ultimate price.



The head of Somalia’s top court has vowed to protect journalists from impunity, signaling the first time the judiciary is rallying to shield newspeople from dangers perpetrated sometimes by rogue government officials.

The revelations emerged on Thursday as the world marked the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. Bashe Yusuf Ahmed, Chief Justice and President of Somalia’s Supreme Court, spoke before an audience of journalists, reflecting on the need to protect press freedom in a country considered one of the most dangerous on the continent for journalists.

“The Supreme Court stands united with journalists, leaving no doubt of our staunch support,” he told the audience in Mogadishu.

Read: For Somali media, fear is dressed as law

“Perpetrators of violence against journalists will face unfaltering accountability without any exceptions.”

The ceremony was organised by the National Union of Somali Journalists (Nusoj), a local lobby for press freedom and the African Union Transition Mission (Atmis). They highlighted the need to adhere to the African Union’s Silencing the Guns as a prerequisite for press freedom in Somalia.

In Somalia, journalists are often targeted by militant groups Al Shabaab and those seen as critical of their terror have paid the ultimate price. But rogue government officials and other state officials have also abused their powers to mistreat journalists with illegal detentions, threats or shutdowns of their outlets, according to a report by Nusoj.

In Mogadishu, the stakeholders joined the world to criticise impunity, calling for sufficient legroom to have journalists do their work without looking over their shoulders.

Read: Shabaab kills renowned Somalia journalist

For years, Nusoj and stakeholders had been demanding review of media laws and related regulations often abused by the rogue officials. The promise by the top judge is significant because it could guarantee the journalists hope of fairness and justice in court.


“Those who dare to harm journalists will face the full weight of the law, bearing the consequences of their despicable actions, the top judge said.

Omar Faruk Osman, the Secretary-General of Nusoj strongly censured what he called a shockingly “standardised culture of impunity” surrounding crimes against journalists.

Addressing a large audience Osman said, “This unacceptable situation perpetuates further violence, ensnaring journalists in a vicious cycle of victimisation and enabling those who oppose peace and justice to flourish unchecked in Somalia.”

“We cannot allow journalists to endure the atrocities inflicted upon them by perpetrators seeking to suppress the truth. It is imperative that we create an environment where journalists can fearlessly fulfil their vital role in society.”

Somalia’s national commemoration kicked off under the theme ‘Demanding Justice for Journalists – A Stand Against Impunity’.

Nusoj indicated that Justice Ahmed’s presence not only extended solidarity to journalists but also served as a powerful symbol of the judiciary’s dedication to ending impunity and securing justice for journalists.

Read: Shabaab, impunity 'hurting' Somali media

Nusoj displayed disturbing statistics on fate of Somali journalists.

Between 2010 and 2023, 62 journalists were killed while carrying out their journalistic duties. Additionally, 67 journalists sustained injuries between 2010 and 2013.

Many others have faced threats, intimidation, and forced exile, emphasising the hazardous conditions faced by journalists in Somalia and featuring the urgent nature of the situation requiring immediate action.

The African Union’s Silencing the Guns in Africa Initiative, was organised to bring attention to the critical importance of seeking justice and eliminating impunity for crimes committed against journalists in Somalia.

The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is a UN-recognised international day observed annually on 2 November.

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