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Journalists in Somalia today joined their counterparts around the world to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.

Hundreds of journalists gathered in Mogadishu, Kismaayo and Baidoa to mark the day with the theme, "Media's Role in Advancing Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies".

The Somalia Federal Minister of Information and Public Awareness, Abdirahman Omar Osman, joined more than 100 journalists and special guests who gathered at the Beerta Nabad (Peace Garden) to mark the day.

The Minister told the journalists at the event organized by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) that the government is committed and determined to promote freedom of expression.

Minister Osman also said the government will build the capacity of Somali journalists by providing training opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge and improve relations between the news media and security agencies.

We are trying to build the relationship between the security apparatus and journalists. We want them to work together so that they understand each other's point of view. As a government and as a minister, I am committed and determined to promote freedom of expression, and we will continue doing that, he stated.

The minister assured journalists that the government was focused on providing a stable and peaceful environment to enable them to exercise their rights freely.

The NUSOJ Secretary General Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu paid tribute to the journalists who have lost their lives while performing their duties.

The purpose for the Somali journalists to gather is to celebrate World Press Freedom Day with their colleagues around the world. Since Somalia is one of the most hostile countries for journalists to work in, we are therefore expressing our opposition to the continuation of such persecutions, he said.

Earlier in the day, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Michael Keating, hosted a breakfast meeting at the UNSOM compound with Mr. Moalimuu, Farhiya Mohamed Kheyre, the chairperson of the Somali Women Journalists Association, and the Universal TV producer Nuure Mohamed Ali.

We salute the courage and dedication of all Somali journalists who take risks every day just to practice their profession, said Mr. Keating. Freedom of expression is essential in democratic and accountable societies. This fundamental human right is frequently restricted in Somalia through the harassment, intimidation and arbitrary detention of journalists and the closure of media outlets. Thirty-four journalists have been killed in Somalia since 2012. The culture of impunity that has allowed their murderers to avoid arrest and prosecution needs to end.

In Baidoa, NUSOJ Vice Chairman Muhidin Hassan Mohamed enumerated the various obstacles facing Somali journalists which curtail freedom of the press and the right to share accurate information.

As you know, journalists in Somalia face a lot of challenges. Many journalists have been killed, jailed and threatened. Fearing for their lives, others sought refuge in other countries where they encountered difficulties, Muhidin said, adding that journalists were marking the day in the hope that they will one day achieve a free media environment.

In Kismaayo, journalists were joined by members of civil society in marking the international day.

Freelance journalist Farah Yusuf said there were many young journalists who lack adequate experience, and she welcomed the World Press Freedom Day event as an opportunity to exchange ideas.

Source: United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM)