Judicial reform is at the heart of the government’s efforts to ensure killers of journalists are brought to justice, His Excellency Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon told a roundtable of journalists in Villa Somalia today.
The Prime Minister called the meeting to discuss the government’s relationship with the media and listen to journalists’ concerns, following the killing of a journalist on January 18 and two recent arrests of reporters.
“I respect the important work you do in Somalia in what are often extremely difficult circumstances and I understand your concern,” the Prime Minister said. “One journalist killed is one journalist too many. We don’t want any to be killed.”
The Prime Minister said the government would provide a reward of $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of any person for killing a journalist.
“Considering justice, we have to realize that nobody is above the law, and that includes the government.
We have to respect the legal process and allow justice to take its course. The government’s responsibility is to tell the judiciary that if there is no evidence against the journalist, he should be released. We understand there has to be reform of the judicial system.”
The decision to establish the Independent Task Force on Human Rights, which was launched on 5 February, had been taken in large part to address concerns about the human rights abuses against Somali journalists, as well as to investigate violence against women, the Prime Minister said.
There was a collective responsibility to root out human rights abuses. Journalists themselves would be contributing to the work of the Task Force by giving evidence and submissions to it during its three-month mandate.
Journalists praised the government’s openness and the access the Prime Minister has given the press in Mogadishu since taking office last year.
“It was a great meeting. We raised our concerns and the Prime Minister responded to them very properly,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, Secretary-General of the National Union of Somali Journalists. “We welcome his commitment to press freedom and freedom of expression and dealing with human rights abuses.”