Tuesday, May 31, 2011(IFJ/NUSOJ/IFEX) - 31 May 2011 - Free expression advocates from around the world gathered this week in Beirut, Lebanon, at the 16th IFEX General Meeting. Thirty IFEX members signed on to the following letter: To: Sheik Sherif Sheik Ahmed President Transitional Federal Government of Somalia Mogadishu – Somalia To: Ahmed M. Mahamoud Silanyo President Somaliland Government Hargeisa - Somaliland We, the undersigned members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) gathered in Beirut, Lebanon for the 16th IFEX General Meeting and Strategy Conference; condemn the increased attacks and judicial harassment against Somali journalists and media organisations. Over the past several months, authorities in Hargeisa, Somaliland, have stepped up legal action against journalists and news media organisations, including trumped up charges of defamation, libel, false news and insults. This harassment includes journalists from five newspapers (Saxafi Newspaper, Hargeisa Star, Ogaal Newspaper, Yool Newspaper and Waheen newspaper). The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), an IFEX member, has condemned the routine and deliberate acts of judicial harassment, which serve as a way of deterring journalists from performing their professional duties. In addition to the judicial harassment, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has arrested several journalists, including Radio Shabelle director Abdirashid Omar Qase Abdi, and editor Abdi Mohammed Ismail. Since January 2011, the Ministry of Information has also been pursuing efforts to undermine the NUSOJ and deny the union its autonomy. On 22 May, the main offices of NUSOJ were raided and robbed by four armed men. The TFG has not done anything to guarantee the safety of the NUSOJ staff and offices. In the meanwhile, the media law reform process in Somaliland has been a serious concern to the journalistic community. As the media law is currently undergoing a review, several clauses of this law are either misinterpreted in court or ignored. We therefore call on: - The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to stop all attacks against journalists and media organisations; - The TFG to refrain from further attempts to undermine the work of NUSOJ; - The Somaliland authorities to cease pursuing legal action against independent journalists and newspapers in Hargeisa and allow them to operate without fear of persecution; - The Somaliland authorities to accelerate media law reform in line with international freedom of the press standards and the development of the access to information law to promote free expression and a democratic media space in Somaliland. National Union of Somali Journalists 1st Floor, Human Rights House Taleex Street, KM4 Area, Hodan District Mogadishu Somalia nusoj (@) nusoj.org Phone: +252 1 859 944 Fax: +252 1 859 944 International Federation of Journalists International Press Centre, Residence Palace Bloc C, second floor, Rue de la Loi, 155 1040 Brussels Belgium Phone: +32 2 2352207 Fax: +32 2 2352219 Arabic Network for Human Rights Information Association of Caribbean Media Workers Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Center for Media Studies & Peace Building Centre for Independent Journalism Egyptian Organization for Human Rights Freedom Forum Freedom House Free Media Movement Hong Kong Journalists Association Independent Journalism Center Index on Censorship Maharat Foundation (Skills Foundation) Media Foundation for West Africa Media Institute of Southern Africa Media Rights Agenda Media Watch Mizzima News Norwegian PEN Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión Pacific Islands News Association Pakistan Press Foundation Public Association "Journalists" West African Journalists Association Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International
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