The United Nations Secretary-General Special Representative for Somalia Michael Keating took part in a civil society panel discussion held in Mogadishu on Monday. The meeting was organized by the National Union of Somalia Journalists (NUSOJ), and discussions focused on the role of media in enhancing good governance, peace and democracy in the country.
The purpose of the meeting was to promote free press as a cornerstone for democracy and establish a strong interaction between the media and the UN to discuss key issues on state building. The event was attended by both private, public Somalia media and civil society groups.
Mr. Keating was joined by panelist Professor Hassan Sheikh Ali, a university lecturer. After a brief introduction of the topic about the role of media in peace, development and democracy in Somalia, moderator Abdirahman Koronto, a former BBC Somalia journalist, both panelists were bombarded with questions by participants. Participants sought to find out how the UN and the Somalia government can support and maintain a free media.
Keating said the Somali media plays an important role in educating, informing and helping shape the country’s future albeit in a challenging environment since 1992 whereby, dozens of journalists have been killed on duty. For the media to perform better, he advised, they must be protected and defended and in turn the media must also act responsibly and professionally. He reiterated UN’s support to NUSOJ efforts at professionalizing the Somalia media.
“Democratic institutions can only flourish with a robust and free media that contributes to the overall peacebuilding effort, as well as contributing to good governance and reconciliation. And for the media to flourish, there must be respect for freedom of expression and press freedom,” Mr. Keating said.
Professor Ali observed it was important to have a professional media and authorities should accordingly provide security to the media. Abdirahman Dinari from the Somalia Think Tank Group thanked the UN for supporting the discussions and providing the platform to civil society to share such insights. He said the media plays a huge role and needs support. “The Somali media has gone through a lot of challenges in Somalia. There was a time when the media personnel were killed, arrested and/or harassed. However, the situation is much better because the country is experiencing change. The media plays a key role in peace building, development and democracy but it needs much more support to professionalize it,” Mr. Dinari added.
NUSOJ Secretary General Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu thanked all the participants for taking part in the discussions and in particular the UN chief in Somalia for his active role in fighting for media rights, as well extending technical and financial support to the Somalia media.