SOMALIA: Minister of Information's speech at the Human Rights Conference in Mogadishu

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Tuesday January 27, 2015 - 15:47:03 in Local News by Chief Editor
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    SOMALIA: Minister of Information's speech at the Human Rights Conference in Mogadishu

    **H.E. Mustafa Duhulow**

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**H.E. Mustafa Duhulow**
**Mogadishu, 27 January 2015**
Ministers and members of Parliament,

Hon. Commissioner Reine Alapini-°©‐Gansou, Special Rapporteur on Human Right
Defenders in Africa (ACHPR)

Excellences, Ladies & Gentleman,

First of all I would like to welcome you all to Mogadishu, the capital city of
Somalia and I hope those of you from abroad will have an opportunity to visit Liido
and Jazeera beaches and other beautiful sites.

It is a pleasure for me to be here with you to welcome the First African Human
Rights Mechanisms Visit to Somalia and to attend this conference organized by the
Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP). This is a timely conference
where we will discuss and share experiences on human rights and how we can make a
huge difference to our people. Our collective approach, understanding and helping
each other out is the best way that we can all protect our citizens from any harm
with individual human rights respected.

As Hon Khadija Mohamed Dirie, the Minister of Women & Human Rights Development
stated Somalia is making huge progress in laying down foundations and legal
necessities to promote human rights at every level. In addition to our huge progress
in devising an Action Plan towards Ending Sexual Violence, we are additionally
preparing the Independent Commission to take the issue of Human Rights further by
promoting, advocating and dealing with all abusers and violators who threaten the
wellbeing of our people. No society can progress or be prosperous without justice,
fairness, and equality. This is an important element for any developing nation and
we took another step on the 20th January, a big day for Somalia when our President
signed the Convention of the Rights of the Child making Somalia one of signatories
of the convention – an event that was reported widely throughout the world. Our
children should be given all the protection that they deserve.

I would like to share with you the progress, challenges and the way forward on
freedom of expression and freedom of press in Somalia and highlight the role of the
Ministry of Informations’ efforts and current programmes to foster protection of
media and press. I will also share with you how we are pursuing the promotion and
protection of human rights defenders (particularly journalists, women and minority
groups).

We fully understand that media workers, human rights defenders and civil society
groups are among the bravest people in Somalia and despite the lack of functioning
institutions and the conflicts of the last quarter of decade they were out there
doing what they know best to promote and advocate justice for all. Many have paid
the ultimate price for their convictions and lost their lives, but we know that they
died for us and our shared convictions and we would not be here today without them.

The Ministry of Information has prepared a Media Law that lays down the regulations
governing Somali media, which is in line with the Provisional Constitution,
specifically Chapter 18 (Freedom of Expression & Opinion). This law will help to
reform, development and modernize Somali media, creating jobs for young people and
professionals, protecting the rights of Somali media workers and also importantly,
protecting civilians from any violation of his or her dignity in the media. We have
carried out a series of consultations with key stakeholders, in particular with
Somali media workers and human rights activists. We paid special attention to the
private media, allowing them open participation in the process that reviewed the
media law. Further, Chapter 23 of the media law states that for the first time in
its history, Somalia will establish Public Service Broadcasting.  I am delighted
that our country will move forward with this service, which among other public
benefits will recognise and promote human rights. We have consulted with human
rights protectors and international media law experts to ensure that the Somali
media law is informed by international standards. The cabinet passed the media law
on 1st September 2014 and we hope the parliament will soon debate and approve it.
Somalia has never had a media law and we believe ours is one of the best in Africa
and other countries.  Recognising that freedom of expression and access to
information is a human right for all. The law will professionalize media workers,
protect media workers and promote sound ethical and responsible journalism.

Other challenges our media workers face is to have their professional needs
recognised alongside the needs of the security forces. The Ministry has been
conducting coordinated dialogue and discussion with security forces with a view to
balance national security concerns and the rights of journalists and human rights
activists carrying out their duties. As part of this we are working with Somalia
Media Support Group and we are grateful for their support in a two day conference
last year between security and media institutions The discussions and dialogue are
progressing very well and we hope that security and media institutions will be able
to work hand in hand in order to advance our collective aims and responsibilities. 
We also work with Somali Media Support Group and its membership of donor
communities, UN agencies, and International organizations in general development of
Somali media. I am very grateful for the support of the SMSG and other donor
communities with regards to providing resources that assist media practitioners and
human rights activists. Without them we would not have achieved the advances we have
managed so far.

We also understand the importance of partnership and working with all key
stakeholders. With this in mind we implemented the Media & Strategic Communications
Coordination Group with the aim of enhancing internal and external communications.
Through this and other Ministry initiatives we have a good working relationship with
private media, National Union of Somali Journalists and other Media Associations. We
listen to their views, comments, and criticism and together come up with strategies
to implement good practices, recognising the important role that such inclusive
information plays in human rights.

Apart from its mandate of devising policies and strategies on Media & Strategic
Communications for the Government, the Ministry of Information also manages Somali
National TV and Radio Mogadishu and our focus of programs, news, documentaries and
other output has always been the protection of citizens, the promotion of human
rights and off course the advocacy of media freedom.

We also prioritize training to enhance the capacity of media workers so that they
can carry out their work professionally and comprehensively including speaking out
for minority and disadvantaged people’s needs.

Despite of the huge progress that we are making, we also have huge challenges that
we must understand very well, in order to find the best solution to overcome them.
They are enormous: the lack of functioning institutions for the last 25 years; the
culture of impunity that permeates many levels of society and administrations; the
lack of professional forces; the need for reform of our courts and justice systems,
and many more. The insecurity in the country also is a key obstacle to progress and
prosperity, which has an impact on media and human rights. Another challenge we have
is the poverty that exists in Somalia, with over 600,000 people living in Internally
Displaced People’s camps in the country and over 2 million Somalis living in refugee
camps outside of the country.

In order for us to overcome our huge challenges we must continue all the good that
we are doing but it is important to recognise that Somalia cannot do it alone.  We
need the support and the assistance of our partners and friends.  But we do not need
to reinvent the wheel.  Good practice can be seen around the globe and it is the
application of these cooperative and supporting partnerships that need to be
implemented in Somalia. International Communities’ generosity in this regard is very
important. While the country is moving away from chaos, civil war, warlordism,
piracy, and terrorism to an era of peace and stability, it is the prime time to
invest in Somalia, in its peace and institution building as well as in the nascent
business community that is beginning to thrive as a result of the advances already
made.  We believe that these two areas will enhance each other as, with support from
the International Community, they develop to the benefit of the country and the
population.

Finally, we welcome this visit of Hon. Commissioner Reine Alapini-°©‐Gansou, Special
Rapporteur on Human Right Defenders in Africa (ACHPR) and we  welcome the
opportunity to share our experience and the good work that we are doing to protect
our citizens, as well as sharing our challenges and vision for the way forward. More
importantly we want to listen to her views, comments, direction and guidance in
order for all of us to work together to advance the well being of our citizens.

I hope that we will able to take advantage of today’s conference so that we can
learn from each other and share experience and more importantly to come up with
recommendations and proposals that we can all implement together. Yes, we can do it.

Many thanks,

H.E. Mustafa Duhulow

Minister of Information