Somalia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Somalia

Somalia

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

83

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

33

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

24

The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was intended to oversee disarmament, demobilization, and a reunification of Somalia under a loose federal arrangement, but instead the central government has collapsed and political rivalries have turned violent, leaving the country divided and anarchic. Legislation adopted by the TFG, including the unimplemented constitution, provides for freedom of speech and of the press but also requires all media outlets to register with the Ministry of Information and imposes penalties for false reporting.

Lethal attacks on the press increased in 2005 as the TFG split and clan rivalries sparked violence, especially in the capital of Mogadishu, where Kate Peyton, an international correspondent for the BBC, was shot dead in February while covering the peace process early in the year. Allegedly, the murder was intended to portray Mogadishu as unsafe and to discourage international support for peace. Domestic Somali journalists have also paid a heavy toll for their coverage of the conflict. In June, a radio journalist for Capital Voice-a local radio station owned by the HornAfrik media company-was shot and killed while covering a protest in Afgoye. Also in June, a reporter with the popular HornAfrik radio station was shot and killed while covering the dismantling of a militia checkpoint in Mogadishu. During its annual general assembly meeting in September, two leaders of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) received anonymous death threats. According to the NUSOJ, attacks on the press in Somalia originate from all rivaling factions, including warlords, regional administrators, independent militias, armed business groups, and others.

Owing in large part to the weakness of the central government, private media outlets are able to operate freely, and some 20 private newspapers, a dozen radio and television stations, and several internet news sites exist in the country. Despite the absence of government restrictions on the internet, less than 1 percent of the population has been able to access this new media source due to the lack of infrastructure and the pervasiveness of poverty. Photocopied dailies and low-grade radio stations have proliferated in Mogadishu and elsewhere since 1991, but journalists struggle to shake off accusations of bias and cover issues that span the ethnic rivalries. Most of the independent newspapers or newsletters that circulate in Mogadishu are linked to one faction or another, and the majority are dependent on these factions for protection.

In the two self-proclaimed autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland, press freedom is very limited and coverage of political and security issues is particularly perilous. The Puntland charter provides for freedom of the press "as long as they respect the law." In April, security forces raided the offices of the Puntland weekly Shacab and detained two staff members for articles deemed unfairly critical of local authorities. In Somaliland, liberal decrees nominally guaranteeing press freedom do not prevent the local administration from continuing to harass and detain journalists. In March, the Somaliland administration dismissed two reporters working for the state-owned Radio Hargeisa on the accusation that they were also working for a pro-opposition station based in London.