#Puntland: Media and Security Stakeholders Ink a Road-Map that Prioritizes the Safety of Journalists and Issues of Impunity, at the Peace Council 2 Conference.

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Galkaio, Puntland, Tuesday, November 6: A two-day follow-up Stakeholders’ Dialogue forum also known as ”Peace Council” on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity was held in Garowe, Puntland, on November 1 and 2, 2018. The Dialogue was organised under a project by the Media Association of Puntland (MAP), funded by Free Press Unlimited (FPU) and the EU.

The Dialogue brought together key stakeholders including media practitioners across the print, broadcast and online sectors; representatives of civil society organisations; representatives of the Puntland Security agencies, Judiciary and the Ministry of Information, telecommunication, culture and heritage.

At the opening session of the conference, the MAP chair while welcoming the participants, he noted that the forum was a follow-up to the Peace council 1 conference, in which the Puntland Journalist security committee (PJSC) was developed as a result from the outcomes of the conference.

Talking on the conference agenda, he said ”Today we will listen to the Puntland Journalist Security Committee (PJSC) report on the cases they received from Journalists through the hotline, we will also get a brief on the ongoing Galkaio murder case of the September 2018 deceased Journalist”.

General Muhyadiin Ahmed Musse, Puntland Police Chief, at his opening remarks, called the conference an important event at the right time with the correct composition of government & Civil Society institutions. The commissioner urged the journalists to promote ethics and accuracy while performing their work and called on the Puntland police across to facilitate Journalists in their Journalism work.

Following the inaugural session, the conference facilitator, Salim Saed, who is also a professional lawyer led the conference’s proceedings and gave presentation on the topics of Best practices addressing the detention of Journalists (the concept of press freedom in the context of international and national legal frameworks, arbitrary detention of journalists and the due process, and as well he brought the attention to the participants on a controversial 452 article of the Somali Penal code.

Among others, the conference presented PJSC’s MAY-OCTOBER 2018 report on cases that arrived at the committee’s hotline aimed at receiving information from Journalists in danger and in order to push for a swift investigation into those cases.

The Puntland Journalist security committee’s (PJSC) member Ahmed Awil gave a summary on the cases that arrived at the committee’s hotline since it’s first establishment on the MAY 3, 2018. Ahmed briefed the participants that thirty cases arrived at the hotline (18male Journalists, 3 Media executives and 9 from Female Journalists), he noted that most of the cases were closed apart from 4 cases whose investigations are still active. 90% of the cases were life threats that arrived to their phones.

While talking of the latest Galkaio murder case, Ahmed said ”The investigation on the murder of the late Journalist Abdirizak Saed remains active, we hope to bring the culprits to justice”

After listening to the security briefing from the Puntland Journalist security committee, the MAP chair then took the stage to condemn all types of crimes committed against local Journalists. He repeated the MAP’s position in pushing for a quick and just investigations into the recent murder of Galkaio Journalist. He noted that ”the series of attacks against journalists that we have observed in the recent months have lead to self-censorship, which is dangerous for the efficient functioning of any democratic society, we will not accept Journalist cases to be thrown under the table, the gov’t must bring the culprits to Justice and punished” Said Mohamed Dahir, MAP’s chair.

Majority of the participant agreed that poor capacity within the media on the areas of professionalism and conflict-sensitive reporting, Skills on how to respond to violent attacks against journalists, the continued interference by government officials and agencies toward the journalism practice, among other factors, were highlighted as challenges faced by the Puntland media practitioners.

On the last day of the conference November 2, which was also the 2018 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI), at the presence of the high ranking government officials varying from the Puntland’s police commissioner, Minister of information, CID’s deputy chief, MAP secretariat and Media executives – a roadmap aimed to continue stakeholder’s cooperation in fostering Journalist’s safety establish an enabling environment for Journalists was presented to the conference. The following points were the points agreed:

a) Police/CID and the Puntland Ministry of information:

  • Ensure that law enforcement agencies do not continue to interfere with the work of journalists and their exercise of the right freedom of expression; Stop the culture of arresting Journalist without court arrest warrants; Stop shutting down media houses without clear reasons with court warrants on search and arrest;
  • 3-CID agents to based in Bosaso, Galkaio and Garowe to be selected and designated for investigating cases reported by journalists.

b) MAP:

  • Continue Peace Council Conferences (Dialogues):_ Organise dialogue forums to strengthen relations between relevant media stakeholders including civil society groups, Judiciary, Police; Extend the Peace Council formats to Nugaal, Bari, and Mudug regions, to give an opportunity to bring together regional authority-police and media – a bottom-up approach.
  • Capacity building: Raise awareness and hold training for journalists aimed enhancing skills in the profession to help Journalists to keep the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct in their reportage as well as training such as conflict sensitive reporting and Journalists safety Seminars;
  • Hotline: Continue to raise awareness on the existence of the PJSC hotlines and urge Journalists to report threats they encounter; Push the committee to speed up investigations.
  • Joint training: Organise training for the Police-Judiciary-CSOs and the media on international legal frameworks, State and federal constitutions on provisions that protect the media independence, freedom of expressions and human rights in general.

At the closing session of the ceremony, Puntland’s Minister of Information, Hon. Abdi Hersi, who closed the conference, highlighted the importance of the media as a public service, adding that there is always a need to focus on the public interest and security. He welcomed the outcomes of the peace council 2 conference and pledged on his behalf to participate in its implementations. As well the Puntland’s Police chief, General Muhyadiin, too welcomed the outcomes and pledged to fully cooperate in its implementation.

The Media Association of Puntland (MAP) will continue providing similar dialogue forums that strengthen media-security cooperation in order to resolve or redress issues between the media, Puntland security and intelligence agencies.

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