Federation of Somali Journalists FESOJ, in cooperation with the European Mission to Somalia under the project of Our Right to Know organized one-day meeting on Council of Peace in Mogadishu titled “Strengthening security agencies and media relations for the safety of journalists, access of information, freedom of expression and media freedom in Somalia”
The objective of the meeting was institute confidence-building mechanisms and professional journalistic processes to facilitate dialogue between the security agencies and media, fostering greater understanding and eliminate distrust and mutual suspicion in order to promote and create an environment conducive to freedom of media and safety of journalists.
The meeting attracted 90 participants from security agencies including senior officials from Somalia’s police command, Somalia’s President’s office, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, civil society groups, journalists, lawyers and university students in Somalia. It was a follow up to a similar meeting held last year in 2018 and was also a direct follow-up to the implementation of a priority identified by stakeholders on the safety of journalists so that lines of dialogue can be opened and agreement between media, security agencies as well as key state institutions with a common strategy to deal with the safety and security of journalists.
During the discussion, participants were taken through thematic topics on how to communicate with the media; operational safety procedures when dealing with the journalists and freedom of expression; and how security forces can ensure that journalists can access the information they need to pass the public.
In his opening remarks the Secretary-General of Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu said it is fundamental human right to ask for and receive, information held by public organizations and government bodies, it is therefore imperative that the security agencies allow journalists to carry out their work freely by providing information that the public needs to know.
Journalists got an opportunity to interact and ask direct questions regarding their safety and security with the police officers and other government officials attended the meeting, particularly on the daily challenges they come across during newsgathering in the city or outskirts of Mogadishu.
Directors of Goobjoog and Dalsan media groups Hassan Mohamud and Hassan Ali Gesey have both emphasized the concerns of the journalists and underlined that it is quite necessary for the Federal Government of Somalia to provide the media with the necessary information they need before it is too late because if the government does not speak out the right moment there may be other parties providing information to the media which they may later make unhappy with the government.
Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed the Communication Director of Somalia President responding question from journalists and civil society groups said
“The safety of journalists can be guaranteed when our security agencies and the media understand that their respective roles remain key to the progress of our nation.
We will work together to sustain close collaboration between the pen and Police to make covering Somalia a pleasure”
“General Abdulahi Hassan Bariise, who has been one of the top police officers working in Mogadishu for the past 15 years blamed and pointed the finger to some young journalists for doing sudden & serious rush to the crime scenes just to cover an incident ,blast or a terror attack and may pose threat themselves because the area isn’t yet secured or there may be unexploded materials at the scene, moreover he said media disturb forensics investigation methods for explosive devices and site engaged
by the security agencies “
The meeting was closed by the President of FESOJ Abdulkadir Elmi who thanked the participants for their frank discussion of key issues affecting media freedom and access to information.
Since the relationship between the media and security agencies, including those in the law enforcement and intelligence services, has always been a delicate one in Somalia and often characterized by frequent clashes, arising from a somewhat startling inability of either side to fully appreciate the role of the other in society, in n conclusion it was agreed that such meetings should be continued to lead for real cooperation and both sides should come up and establish a task force for further dialogues.