An Open Letter to IFJ To: Philippe Leruth, President of IFJ To: Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary of IFJ To: Executive Committee Members
Mogadishu, 15 January 2017 – The Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism of the Federal Government of Somalia categorically rejects the claims from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and wishes to inform the IFJ’s good offices that they were deliberately misled by at least one of its board members. This is yet further evidence of IFJ’s misinformed policy toward an individual that claims to be the leader of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) but in fact is totally fraudulent. This fraudulent and illegitimate status is recognised by the vast majority of national and international stakeholders that are intimately involved in supporting Somali journalists and media. It is a matter of deep regret for all organizations and individuals that believe in a free and fair media that the IFJ remain informed only by the fraudulent personalities themselves and therefore have no understanding of the reality.
The Ministry of Information of Somalia expresses its deep concern over IFJ’s accusation that Somali Ministry of Information is “engineering unwarranted attacks against Somali journalists and their union”. In the public statement dated 11 January 2018 entitled “IFJ expresses concerns over the escalation of attacks on media freedom in Somalia” the Ministry of Information whole-heartedly agrees with the condemnations of attacks on Somali journalists, but it categorically refutes allegations made against it in the same article and in its previous, ill-informed statements. The Ministry of Information has been the champion of promoting freedom of expression in Somalia despite the huge challenges that exist. The Ministry of Information of Somalia calls for IFJ to retract its statement to the contrary and also to make public apology on their claim. The Federal Ministry of Information of Somalia also challenges the IFJ to produce any credible evidence that Somali authority is “tightening noose on freedom of expression” and the ministry of information’s engineering of “unwarranted attacks”.
It is time to fully investigate the reason why IFJ ignores the facts on the ground in Somalia despite the calls from Somali journalists that repeatedly informed them since 2011. It is also time for IFJ to seriously investigate the dealings between Omar Faruk Osman and Jim Boumelha since 2006 up to now, including their financial collusion. It is time to objectively conduct an independent audit to find out the truth. The UN issued a risk report on Omar Faruk, which details his fraudulent, illegal actions and unsuitable character for any leadership office. Furthermore, there have been many instances of his indictment and arrest in Ethiopia and in Kenya since this report was made available to the IFJ, which illustrate the professional and personal failures detailed in the report. In response to any criticism of Omar Farouk Osman, no matter how legitimate, he simply makes unfounded attacks on his accusers. It is again a matter of great regrets that rather than examining these false accusations made by Omar Farouk Osman, the IFJ simply reiterates them, as if they were true.
The Ministry of Information takes this opportunity to once again ask the IFJ to seriously conduct an independent investigation of actions of Mr Omar Faruk Osman as to why he deliberately misleads and takes advantage of IFJ’s good offices. It is IFJ’s mandate to be the global voice of journalists and not to be the voice of one individual well-known as a fraud, embezzler, thief and aggressor against people he claims to represent.
The Federal Government of Somalia acknowledges that the legitimate National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is independent and their mandate and legitimacy comes from Somali journalists who’s interests they represent. No other organisation, be it the IFJ, or other third party, should interfere with NUSOJ internal affairs.
The Ministry of Information gives IFJ its full commitment and assurances that Somali government will promote the freedom of associations and the freedom of speech as enshrined in Somali Constitution. The Ministry of Information strongly believes that the Ministry and IFJ have mutual and common interest that need us to work together so that all sides can promote Somali journalists to strive and become leaders of freedom of expression in Africa. Both institutions share a mandate and common interests, which is to promote the freedom of speech.
One of the first duties of any organization or individual is to inform itself of the issues it is dealing with. In Somalia there are international diplomats and organizations that work in the country, which IFJ can contact directly to find out the facts on the ground. The United Nations have a number of offices in Somalia, such as UNSOM, UNSOS, UNICEF, UNESCO, and others who are all assisting Somali journalists on a regular basis. A number of diplomatic missions are also operate in the country such as US, UK, Italy, Sweden, African Union, Arab League, and other western countries and all of them support journalists in the country. They are all fully aware of the facts surrounding the leadership of NUSOJ. We do not understand why the IFJ does not liaise with these organizations in order to fact check what looks like its single source of information, unfortunately a partial, self-serving source.
It was in 2011 when NUSOJ members removed Omar Faruk Osman from the leadership through democratic process, after they accused him of mismanagement of funds and corruption practices. But he has taken advantage of his connections and links with international organizations such as IFJ and continued to present himself as the leader of NUSOJ.
In 2016, NUSOJ held inclusive consultations with Somali journalists from all regions and held a general assembly where they elected Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, as their Secretary General of NUSOJ. Moalimuu is a well-respected journalist who previously worked for BBC and has the overwhelming support of journalists in the country. Since his election the country has seen unity of purpose to journalists. It is unfortunate that IFJ missed this opportunity to welcome the outcome of NUSOJ General Assembly, but it is not too late to genuinely send a fact finding mission to find out the reality on the ground. Given the general circumstances, the potential conflict of interest where the claimant of authority over NUSOJ is also on the board of the IFJ, and the number of significant but objective stakeholders who are of one opinion regarding the leadership of NUSOJ, we feel that this is the least that such an esteemed organization as IFJ should do in order to “inform itself”.
Somali journalists have played a critical role reporting events in Somalia even during civil war, during warlordism, during terrorism and piracy and many of them lost their lives in providing information to public. Somali journalists are brave people and they deserve the real and genuine attention from all of us, including the IFJ.
Determining the leadership of the National Union of Somali Journalists’ (NUSOJ) is not a decision for International organizations. It is a matter of national law. In the case of NUSOJ this was determined in an official decision by the Supreme Court of Somalia in 2016 as civil society groups and the courts had an observer role in the elections of NUSOJ. Please see the attached letter from the Supreme Court to the Ministry confirming their decision on who is the legitimate leader of Somali journalists.
The Ministry is deeply committed to the freedom of expression and the safety of Somali Journalists. Somalia has taken steps to end impunity for journalist killers in Somalia as a number of criminals had been executed for their actions. The Ministry is working with UNESCO, International Media Partners working in Somalia and other local media organizations who genuinely and legally represent Somali Media. Somali Government is working on the establishment of the National Mechanism for the Safety of Journalists in all Somalia. It has amended Somali Media Law in order to reflect suggestions and changes proposed by the independent media and international media partners and submitted it to the parliament for approval in 2018.
Finally, the Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism repeats its invitation for the IFJ to send an independent observer to verify the conditions under which Somali journalists work. The facts on the ground must count for more than repeated false allegations. And Omar Faruk Osman, who is a member of IFJ Board must stop issuing false public statements, slander and defamation statements against the Ministry of Information and any other individual or organization, as suites his own agenda.
Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism