NAIROBI (Somaliguardian) –Amnesty International issued a report revealing horrific facts involving surge in violent attacks, threats, harassment and intimidation of media workers –perpetrated by Somali government officials.
Amnesty says it documented censorship and allegations of bribery of media outlets by Somali government officials. It adds that the office of President Farmajo repeatedly pays monthly bribes to some media owners and directors forcing them not to publish “unfavorable” stories.
“I used to get a phone call from the official at the Office of the President and would meet with him at a hotel and collect the cash from him. He never allowed depositing the money in my bank account.” said one former media director Amnesty cited in its report.
“Journalists interviewed said their editors ordered them not to write articles critical of the offices of the President and Prime Minister, or about insecurity, corruption, and human rights violations.” reads the report issued by Amnesty International, adding that the organization documented four cases of journalists fired by their employers for defying censorship orders.
Hundreds of Thousands of USD allocated for private media
Somaliguardian has found that the case involving bribery of media by the government extends wider than mentioned in the Amnesty report as journalists in Mogadishu have confirmed.
Officials who once worked at the offices of the Somali President and PM confirmed to Somaliguardian that more than seven hundred thousand USD has been allocated for bribing media to boost censorship efforts which is received by media stations and journalists living in and outside the country.
Among the journalists monthly paid by the Somali Federal government include renowned figures working for International media, the likes of BBC Somali and VOA.
The Somali Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir speaking before parliament stressed that his government maintains burgeoning relations with the VOA Somali which surprised MPs at the session who raised questions about “how far it extends!.”
“The quest for a positive image has led the authorities in Somalia to embrace repressive tactics that fly in the face of international human rights standards. The authorities have an obligation to uphold the rights to freedom of expression, information, and media freedom,” said Deprose Muchena.
Social media hounding
“Rampant censorship has forced many journalists to turn to social media to express their opinions, but authorities have set up dedicated teams to monitor and report critical content.” Amnesty said.
Journalists told Amnesty international that government officials often called and aggressively threatened with dire consequences if they refused to remove critical content from their personal social media accounts.
The report also mentions that one journalist was forced out of his job for supporting an opposition politician on his Facebook page.
The new report entitled “we live in perpetual fear”, showed dramatic deterioration in the right to freedom of expression and media freedom since President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ took office in February 2017.
“Somali journalists are under siege. From barely surviving explosive-wired cars, being shot, beaten up and arbitrarily arrested, journalists are working in horrifying conditions,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
Amnesty International stated in its report that eight journalists have been killed in Somalia since President Farmajo took office. Five died in bombing attacks while three others were shot directly by unidentified gunmen and police officers.
Somali journalists have long been under siege on all fronts as the country still remains the worst place in the world for a journalist to live –which forced many journalists to flee to overseas countries and quit their jobs.
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