Somalia: UN human rights experts alarmed over intense prosecution of journalists’ unions leaders

The International Federation of Journalists has welcomed the backing of a group of UN top human rights experts for its affiliate in Somalia which is fighting government attempts to interfere in the work of the union and harassment of its leadership.

In a statement delivered on 4th May, four United Nations human rights experts urged the Government of Somalia to end the continuous acts of intimidation and reprisals against members and leaders of two Somali trade unions and to stop interfering in the unions’ internal affairs and activities. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urged the Somali government to heed international calls to immediately end intimidations, smear campaigns and protect the leadership of NUSOJ.

In their statement UN human rights experts Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga, Maina Kiai, David Kaye and Michel Forst point at the high harassment rate facing members and leaders of the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) and the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), an IFJ affiliate, by both anonymous persons and State officials.

They deplored the continuous targeting of NUSOJ secretary general Omar Faruk Osman, who escaped an attempted assassination on 29th December 2015. They also point at the Somali authorities’ interference with the union’s internal affairs and activities, banning for instance the NUSOJ’s general assembly in February 2016 or attempting to designate a State official as head of the NUSOJ in place of Omar Faruk Osman.

The IFJ notes and strongly condemns moves by media employers to highjack the union, and confirmed its continued solidarity to NUSOJ and its current leadership against interferences from both government and media owners and managers.

On 11th November 2015, the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Governing Body already endorsed the findings of a Opens external link in new windowreport concluding gross violations of the right to freedom of association and interference in internal union affairs, arbitrary interrogation of and travel restrictions on NUSOJ leaders by officials of the Government of Somalia.

“Somalia is not fulfilling its international human rights obligations and the situation for trade unions keeps on worsening despite specific recommendations made by the ILO (…) urging the Somali Government to refrain from any further interference in the unions registered in Somalia, with particular reference to the NUSOJ and FESTU,” Opens external link in new windowthe rights experts said.

“This statement by UN human rights experts, including David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association, is important for our union NUSOJ and its national trade union center FESTU”, said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “It recalls once again that NUSOJ members including their elected Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman do not enjoy the basic safety standards they need to exercise their rights as trade unionists and media professionals”. “We cannot tolerate that those campaigning for a free press in the country find themselves constantly under surveillance, facing harassment and unfair restrictions on their travel and legitimate trade union activities.”

“We join the ITUC in congratulating the leaders of IFJ affiliate NUSOJ for their engagement in defending a free, democratic and independent union and demanding that the Somali authorities and media employers recognise and respect them, and stop interfering in union affairs.”