Somalia: Journalists protest against restrictions to cover upcoming elections

A Somali polling agent (right) explains the voting procedure to a voter before she casts her ballot in Baidoa. Somalia is in the process of selecting a new parliament, upper house and president in a limited franchise election that involves 14,000 delegates from all regional states, including Galmudug and Puntland. PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today expressed concerns and condemned the restrictions to the coverage of the ongoing indirect elections in Somalia by journalists of the independent media.
Presidential elections are due to be held on 28 December 2016 in Somalia, as decided by National Leaders Forum (NLF), to choose the President of Somalia and the leaders of the two houses of the Parliament, notably the speakers of the upper house and the lower, and their deputies.
According to media reports, Government officials who are working with inter-dicsciplinary committee on transition – a technical committee which is preparing for inauguration of Somalia’s 10th parliament – have started the designation of State Media as the sole broadcaster of the election of the leaders of bicameral parliament and presidential elections, denying the independent media the space and possibility to directly cover elections.
“We express our support to our colleagues of Somalia, and recall that the role of the media in democratic elections is crucial to safeguard the transparency of the process and to guarantee freedom of expression for all candidates and citizens,” said IFJ President, Philippe Leruth.
According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), an IFJ affiliate, many issues are affecting the media professionals involved in the coverage of the elections. There are intimidations and assaults against journalists by security forces, the supporters of candidates and hired militias. Bribery of some media owners and journalists is organised by election candidates who are paying them huge sums of money. Some media owners who are either candidates or backing particular candidates are publishing biased reports against their challengers in order to discredit them. The state media is used by incumbent government officials in favour of the president and prime minister who are both aspiring for office of the president; and the other candidates are not given the equal space.
To this effect, NUSOJ produced a “Plea to state actors, politicians and associated institutions” that was endorsed by several presidential candidates except the incumbent president.
“This election has particular significance in Somalia’s political development. The independent media and their journalists must be given unconstrained access to the elections site and be allowed to report elections freely to the wider public like the State Media,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
The African Union charter on democracy elections and governance recommends to all African States to “guarantee conditions of security and free access to information” to all bodies including the media professionals, as well as to “ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and candidates to state controlled media during elections.”
“We call on the Government of Somalia and the Security forces to ensure that the African charter is upheld and that journalists of the independent media have full access to cover the elections,” added IFJ President, Philippe Leruth.

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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