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Somalia28 December 2006

Call for a charter to protect journalists as government troops take over

As troops loyal to the transitional federal government took control of almost all of Somalia today, Reporters Without Borders and its partner organisation in Somalia, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), called on the government and all other parties to the conflict to respect the work of journalists.

Making their appeal five days after the UN security council’s unanimous adoption on 23 December of Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in armed conflicts, the two organisations called on the Somali authorities to undertake to respect a four-point charter that would demonstrate its desire to respect democratic rules and establish an open and pluralistic society in Somalia.

“Somali and foreign journalists have paid a high price in the erratic war that has been tearing the country apart for the past 15 years,” the organisations said. “With an internationally-recognised government today proclaiming its desire to establish a democracy, it would be incomprehensible if the ordeal for journalists were to continue. Now that Mogadishu and almost all of the rest of the country has been taken, there must be a clear change in the climate, one that allows the public to receive news and information in a proper manner.”

Reporters Without Borders and the NUSOJ call on the Somali transitional federal government to undertake to respect, and ensure respect for, the following four principles:

1. Protect the work of local and foreign journalists covering events taking place in Somalia, this to include giving clear instructions to the troops maintaining order that journalists must be treated as civilians.

2. Guarantee media pluralism in Somalia, ensuring in particular that no retaliatory measures are taken against news media and journalists that might be perceived as not being in favour of the transitional federal government.

3. Facilitate the access of the local and foreign media to information by ensuring that the troops loyal to the transitional federal government cooperate with journalists.

4. Give priority to dialogue with media organisations in cases of disputes with the press.

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