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Journalists, opposition politicians in Somalia suffer govt’ oppression-Amnesty report

Storyline:National News

By T. Roble

Human rights violations including intimidation of journalists, arbitrary arrests of opposition politicians and killings remain rife in Somalia with little or no efforts to prosecute, a report by the campaign group Amnesty International reveals.

The report, Human Rights in Africa 2019 puts on the spotlight authorities in Somalia and Somaliland over concerted efforts to stifle dissent and suppress freedom of expression and assembly. “The authorities cracked down on critics, including journalists, and opposition members stifling their rights to freedom of expression and assembly, in some cases using excessive force resulting in deaths,” the report released this week says.

Freedom of expression and assembly suffered heavy state suppression as journalists and politicians became the target of a government campaign to curtail their rights. “Journalists were beaten, harassed, threatened, subjected to arbitrary arrests and intimidation by the authorities, including the police, military and other government officials throughout south central Somalia and in Puntland,” Amnesty said.

1,000 casualties

The report observes that authorities resorted to new techniques to suppress media freedom including bribing media outlets to self-censor and harassing journalists and other critics both offline and online. The report also notes the ongoing conflict in Somalia has had a devastating impact on the civilian population resulting in over 1000 casualties.

The casualties are attributed to both state actors such as the Somali National Army, US military and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The militant group Al-Shabaab has also conducted indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations. Out of 1154 casualties by mid November, 67% were a result of indiscriminate and targeted attacks by Al-Shabaab, the report reads.

The report also paints a gloomy picture on the protection of gender rights and efforts to combat gender based violence in Somalia. The country is yet to adopt the Sexual Offenses Law which criminalizes sexual offenses including rape and providing sufficient legal recourse for victims.