Mogadishu- Wednesday, September 28, 2022 – With the support of IMS/FOJO, the Somali Media Association (SOMA) has organized and conducted on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 one-day symposium for the media stakeholders including media associations and civil society organizations (CSO) to observe the International Day for Universal Access to Information -IDUAI- 2022.
The symposium held at Hotel Afrik has been participated by representatives from the Ministry of Information, Media Associations, Directors of various media outlets including radio stations, TVs, Somali National University, SONSA, Banadir Regional Authority Media , CSO, websites, Hamar Press Newspapers, freelancers and intellectuals.
The key purpose for the meeting was to highlight the international events signifying the fundamental rights to access information and discuss the key challenges restricting access to information in the context of Somalia.
In his opening remarks, Hilaal Sheikh Shuceyb , Chairman of the Somali Media Association (SOMA) pointed out the importance of observing the International Day for Access to information and the theme for this year 2022 was taken to be Artificial Intelligence, e-governance and access to information.
“I hope that symposium will discuss the general situation of access to information in Somalia and how to address the challenges to getting completed and accurate information.” Hilal Sheikh Shuceyba said.
He explained access to information means that every person has the fundamental right to seek, receive and communicate information.
On his part , Abdalle Mumin , Secretary General of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) mentioned the growing pressure against Somali journalists and lack of access to information call for concern.
“When journalists are blocked, threatened and their access to information denied, it will establish a culture of impunity.” He stated.
The main themes covered during the one-day symposium included Introduction of the significance of the International Day for Universal Access to Information – IDUAI- 28 September 2022, its historical background, debates and speeches signifying the event, highlighting the 2022 UNESCO theme for International Access to Information Day: “Artificial Intelligence, e-Governance and Access to Information”.
Furthermore, a panel discussion chaired by representatives from the Somali Non- State Actors (SONSA), Ministry of Information, Federation of Somali Journalists (FESOJ) and Media Women Network (MWN) has been conducted.
During the debate and discussion session, the key issues focused on were included how to ensure the rights of every Somali citizen access information, how to address the challenges against the independent media outlets to access information from the Somali government, the need to check information to receive accurate information and avoid fake news and making valuable recommendations.
In conclusion, the panel discussions have made the following valuable recommendation: –
To improve the efforts made by the local civil society and journalists associations to promote media freedom and the right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.
Maintain public education campaigns on respect for human rights including the right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom;
To speed up drafting the Access to Information Bill through the parliament as required by the Constitution.
Not restrict and hinder the rights of individuals to seek, receive and communicate information;
Facilitate the journalists and media workers access to government information, and lift the restrictions on accessing government buildings and interviewing public officials;