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HRC33: Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia

Human Rights Council: 33rd Session
Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Somalia

28th September 2016

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) and CIVICUS
Delivered by Renate Bloem

Thank you Mr. President,

CIVICUS and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project thank the Independent Expert on Somalia for his report.

As Somalia prepares for its electoral process later this year, we take this opportunity to welcome steps taken by the government to strengthen its human rights framework in preparation for the election.

While recognising this progress, we call on Somali authorities to make a concerted effort to address undue restrictions on freedom of expression.

In particular, we call on Somalia to ensure that government officials’ threats and intimidation of media workers are swiftly and effectively investigated. In June 2016, Puntland Ministry of Information issued a directive restricting journalists from interviewing persons linked to pirates and terrorists, and in an audio recording, the Minister of Information threatened to use force and to kill journalists who violate the order. Although Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the majority of violations committed against media workers, the Government should cease its practice of closing radio stations and arresting journalists deemed critical.

Media workers have expressed concern that broad provisions in the new media law, signed by the president in January 2016, are likely to prompt self-censorship. We call on the government of Somalia to ensure that all of its laws, including the media law, are in line with its international and regional obligations.

Election periods present heightened challenges for media workers. Journalists will play a critical role in informing the public during Somalia’s electoral process, on top of their challenging coverage of the conflict. We echo the independent expert’s view that the role played by the media in Somalia is critical and indispensable as Somalia builds peace and democracy and consolidates the State, and should be protected and promoted by the State.

We therefore strongly urge the government to take effective and meaningful steps to implement the important recommendations put forward during its recent Universal Periodic Review examination and ensure the creation of a safe and enabling environment for media workers and human rights defenders during the upcoming electoral process.

I thank you.