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UN envoy: freedom of press must be protected in Somalia

The UN envoy for Somalia on Monday urged [statement, PDF] the east African nation to end a "culture of impunity" that threatens press freedom in the wake of the killings of two journalists. Augustine Mahiga [official profile], the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, declared that freedom of the press is crucial for Somalia as it struggles to emerge from two decades without a functioning government. One of the two journalists, Yusuf Ali Osman, a media relations specialist, was shot on Sunday as he walked into his office [UN press release]. The other journalist, Mohamed Ali, a reporter for online publications, was reportedly killed by a stray bullet while watching a soccer match. Mahiga condemned the killings of Osman and Ali and called for an end to violence against the media:

This culture of impunity must end. We must not allow the fundamental freedoms that a free press represents to be compromised by those willing to use violence to serve their personal agendas. This is a decisive time in the political process and the work of media needs to be protected so that the Somali people are fully informed.
In his statement, Mahiga also called on the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) [official website] to strengthen its investigative policing.

The international community has urged Somalia to ensure that the country's transition to the rule of law is proceeding peacefully. Last week the UN welcomed the signing of Somalia's National Security and Stabilization Plan [JURIST report]. Two weeks ago the Somalia's constituent assembly approved a draft of the new constitution [JURIST report] with over 96 percent of the 645 ballots cast in the special 825-member assembly after eight days of debate. The new constitution also has to be ratified by a national referendum. In June President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed [BBC profile] and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) signed [JURIST report] a decree establishing the legal framework by adopting a new constitution convened by the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). During the same month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] told [JURIST report] officials at the Istanbul II Conference on Somalia [materials] that Somalia must take all efforts to smoothly transit into a permanent government with a new constitution. In May Somalia was called on to address the issue of legitimate judicial systems [JURIST report] in Mogadishu and South Central Somalia after the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia found that there were significant difficulties in harmonizing Sharia law with modern international and human rights law.

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