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The umbrella organization for Somali journalists today urged the government to protect its members from violent crimes to enable them to work without fear or favour.

Speaking at a workshop held in Mogadishu today, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, the Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), described the dangerous conditions under which members of the news media must work.

Thirty-four journalists have been killed in Somalia since 2012 while exercising their freedom of expression. Three journalists were assassinated last year; over 80 journalists have also been jailed in various regions of the country. You can imagine the challenges that exist, and Somalia is one of the hostile environments for journalists, he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Somalia as one of the deadliest countries to work in, alongside Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Libya.

The workshop was attended by more than 30 journalists and sponsored by the United States Mission in Somalia. It kicked off a series of activities that will commemorate World Press Freedom Day, which is observed annually on 3 May.

Somali Federal Member of Parliament (MP) and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Media Affairs, Khalid Maow Abdulkadir, stressed the importance of upholding freedom of expression, which he described as the basis for all forms of liberty.

Freedom of expression is the basic principle of all freedoms that exist in life. If there is no freedom of expression, the person cannot express himself. Freedom of expression, on the other hand, is not an open field, there are limitations, Mr. Abdulkadir told participants.

The MP's observations were echoed by the former Chairman of the Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FIEIT), Omar Mohamed Abdulle, who stated that freedom of expression is a prerequisite for democracy and good governance.

Freedom of expression will ensure that the people managing the country are competent and honest and also possess the experience to do the job, Mr. Abdulle observed.

He added that the right to express oneself was critical because it encourages open and independent debate between ruling and opposition political parties, which enables the public to make informed judgements on pertinent issues.

Radio journalist Farhiya Mohamed Hassan thanked NUSOJ for organizing the meeting and urged the government to do more to protect journalists

We held discussions on expanding freedom of expression and safeguarding journalists from arbitrary detention. The government needs to guarantee the freedom of expression required by journalists in reporting the issues affecting the public as well as ensuring justice for all, Ms. Hassan said.

Farah Abdi Warsame, a photojournalist who also attended the workshop, urged journalists to remain strong and resilient, adding that they have responsibilities as well as rights they must fulfill.

The reports by journalists have to be factual and based on true events. Journalists are required to exercise impartiality. A journalist should also observe integrity and respect while doing his job, Mr. Warsame noted

Source: United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM)