Somali government urged to rescind Radio Shabelle's eviction order

Monday, October 28, 2013
H.E. Abdi Farah Shirdoon Prime Minister of Somalia 1 Villa Somalia Mogadishu , The Islamic Republic of Somalia 2525 Dear Prime Minister, I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. CJFE adds its voice to Reporters Without Borders, the National Union of Somali Journalists and the undersigned signatories to ask you to intervene to rescind the order of eviction sent by the Ministry of Interior to the Shabelle Media Network on 20 October. Evicting these journalists will put their lives in danger. This letter from the Ministry comes as a strong surprise as Radio Shabelle's occupancy of this former Somali airline building is based on an agreement between the Ministry of Transport of the former Transitional Federal Government and the Shabelle Media network, allowing the latter to use the building until 2015. This summons for eviction, which is not justified on any legal grounds, appears therefore as an arbitrary and disproportionate decision from the Ministry of Interior and should be revoked. Furthermore, this decision can have a direct nefarious effect on freedom of information. Putting Radio Shabelle in the streets will not only prevent the media from broadcasting and ensuring its public information mission. It will also put the journalists and all the staff of Radio Shabelle in immediate and real physical danger. As you know, Radio Shabelle seeks to publish free and fair information, and to accurately describe the situation on the ground while avoiding political or religious exploitation of their network. Targeted by the radical Islamic militia Al-Shabaab and Hibzz al-Islaam, unfairly accused of serving foreign interests, it has paid a very heavy human tribute over the past years because of its commitment to provide free and independent information to the Somali population, losing ten journalists to violent attacks since 2007. The government of Somalia should endeavour to protect such a valuable resource. Mr. Prime Minister, this attempt by the Ministry of Interior to gag independent media is only the latest in a series of intimidations. Only recently the Ministry of Information, Posts, Telecommunications and Transportation also submitted summons for the editors of the radio station. This same Ministry is currently responsible for the lease of Radio Shabelle's building and would have the power to stop this eviction. These repeated efforts to weaken Radio Shabelle and the representatives of the independent media are not worthy of a democratic society and undermine Somalia's progress towards rule of law. You are well aware that being a journalist in Somalia is a truly dangerous occupation, as shown again by the latest gun attack on 22 October against the Universal TV journalist, Mohamed Mohamud Timadde. The attack has been strongly condemned by the President of the Federal Republic of Somali, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who has commanded the "magnificent job" of journalists in Somalia and urged them "to keep up their courageous activities." The Somali government has shown it is aware of these difficulties and has committed, through various national and international texts, to protect journalists and freedom of information:
  • • The Somali provisional constitution guarantees, in article 18, freedom of expression and of opinion. As such, Radio Shabelle should not be punished for having exercised its constitutional right.
  • • Somalia is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the primary global human rights treaty guaranteeing freedom of expression.
  • • More recently, Somalia committed, in 2011 to implement several recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review concerning protection of the media, of which I will only quote one: "To put an end to all practices that threaten the right to freedom of expression, including threats against journalists and media outlets."
The eviction of Radio Shabelle clearly constitutes such a threat. We ask of you, Mr. Prime Minister, and of the Federal Government of Somalia, to honour the national and international commitments taken towards the Somali people and the international community to defend freedom of expression and information by respecting and protecting Radio Shabelle and the independent voices in the media. We unite our voices to actively request the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Information, Posts, Telecommunications and Transportation to stop this eviction process – that amounts to persecution of independent media – by rescinding its order immediately. We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, Arnold Amber, CJFE President Reporters Without Borders National Union of Somali Journalists Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech Africa Freedom of Information Centre Aliansi Jurnalis Independen/Alliance of Independent Journalists ARTICLE 19 Bahrain Center for Human Rights Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia Freedom Forum Freedom House Independent Journalism Center - Moldova Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information International Press Institute International Publishers Association Media Foundation for West Africa Media Institute of Southern Africa Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA Pacific Islands News Association Pakistan Press Foundation Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA International Federation of Journalists Asia Pacific Cc: His Excellency Elmi Ahmed Duale, Ambassador to the United Nations His Excellency David Angell, the High Commissioner of Canada for Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda and Ambassador to Burundi, Somalia, and South Sudan. The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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