UNESCO Strengthens Safety of Journalists ahead of Elections in Somalia

A training workshop on safety of journalists during election period was organized from 28 to 29 March 2021 by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) with the support of UNESCO through the Multi Donor programme on freedom of expression and safety of journalists (MDP), and in close collaboration with the Somali National Commission for UNESCO.

The two-day training aimed at equipping participants with knowledge on safety challenges faced during the course of their duties. Planning for personal security, risk assessment, security in transit and digital security during elections coverage were also core component of this training, coupled with assessment of specific safety risks faced by female journalists during elections, and the gender sensitiveness in election reporting as a whole.

Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director and Representative of UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa highlighted the importance of elections for democratic society and the key role of free and independent media play in this process as well as a safe environment for journalists to work.

The workshop was attended by forty-one (41) journalists comprising of 24 males and 17 females, comprising reporters, presenters, editors, producers, and citizen journalists drawn from TV, radio, newspapers, and online media platforms benefited from a training on safety and security on elections coverage.

In highlighting the legal and institutional framework for elections in Somalia, the training also placed emphasis on the need for journalists to abide to ethical standards. The training included also practical exercises on scenario building, identification of modalities for engagement with security forces to enhance journalists’ safety during elections in Somalia.

In reiterating the commitment of the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT) to support safety and security of journalists during elections in Somalia, the Chairperson, Mr. Mohamed Hassan outlined during his key note speech: “I have come to participate in this training because I strongly believe in the very vital role that journalists play in a free, fair, inclusive and peaceful election. And I want to assure you all, fellow journalists, that FEIT will prioritise the protection of the safety of journalists in all Federal Member States and Banadir region. We will closely work with the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) to address any safety concerns that journalists might face during the elections”.

Taking the floor at the opening session, Mr Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and convener, presented the media environment in Somalia as often dangerous and insecure for journalists, when he said: “The legal and physical environment for journalists in Somalia remains fragile and dangerous. The risks to physical safety and security are likely to be heightened during electioneering, hence the need for this training. We hope that through proper training and skilling, we can reduce the level of exposure for journalists.

This workshop is part of a series of trainings planned by UNESCO, in contribution to efforts and commitment of the United Nations Mission to Somalia (UNSOM), in response to the need for fostering and strengthening mutual cooperation between the media sector, electoral bodies, and security forces to enhance freedom of expression and safety of journalists in Somalia. In doing so, UNESCO strives to creating an enabling environment for more effective dialogue among different stakeholders, by strengthening the capacities of existing media networks and coalitions, and by actively engaging duty bearers and rights holders in Somalia.

About the Multi-Donor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists

The Multi-Donor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP) serves to further strengthen UNESCO work at a global, regional, and national levels, by channelling funds towards emerging priorities and the most pressing needs to achieve its mandate on freedom of expression. It enables UNESCO Communication and Information Sector to address complex issues through the design and implementation of holistic medium and long-term interventions at national, regional and global levels. The clear advantage of this mechanism is that it allows UNESCO and its partners to achieve greater impact and sustainability, whilst reducing fragmentation of activities in the same field.

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