The Right to Freedom of Expression: Striving to Widen Democratic Space in Somalia’s Political Transition

Posted by on Sep 4th, 2016 and filed under NEWS IN ENGLISH. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

fredomThis joint report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) focuses on the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Somalia in the context of the country’s democratic transition. The report assesses progress since 2012 and the challenges to creating democratic space for Somali citizens on key processes, such as the constitutional review, State formation and the electoral process. 2016 is a critical juncture in Somalia’s political transition, ahead of the expected 2020 “one person, one vote” elections.

Freedom of expression plays a central role in building democratic states and in time of political transformation. Its exercise allows political processes to be open, free, fair, and legitimate, enabling pluralistic political communication and ensuring representative and meaningful public and political discourse. Securing space for the multiple voices of politicians, media, and the population in general, is both a permanent challenge and a critical opportunity for any democracy.

The report also analyses the violations related to freedom of expression documented by UNSOM from 2012 until 2016, including killings, beatings, harassment, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, lack of due process or fair trial guarantees, and closure of media outlets. While such violations receive press coverage and are publicly and privately raised by journalists and other media workers, media associations and human rights defenders, the authorities rarely investigate the cases or prosecute perpetrators. Genuine accountability can only be achieved if there is a systematic and official response to impunity by ensuring that effective investigations and prosecutions take place and punishments are duly enforced.

Attacks, threats of attack and other forms of harassment and interference often silence journalists and other media workers, human rights defenders or political leaders, pushing them to self-censorship on issues that certain actors consider to be sensitive, including on the human rights situation, elections, corruption, and public crises or issues of public concern, emergencies and public demonstrations. These threats and attacks necessarily contravene national and international law and impede the free flow of information, which impacts the ability of citizens to contribute to democratic processes by means of informed decisions on a wide range of issues, thereby violating the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Key recommendations to the Federal Government and the emerging Federal states include strengthening law and policy frameworks, fostering a conducive environment for all Somalis to express their opinions freely, particularly at such a critical juncture in Somalia’s political landscape, and ensuring accountability for human rights violations and abuses.

Kala Soco Warar Sugan:


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