UN Oral Intervention on Somalia: Freedom of Expression and Internally Displaced People

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Lillian Black:

In the Federal Republic of Somalia there are around 2.6 million internally displaced people due to continued violence, conflict, and drought. They are at far greater risk of facing sexual violence, limited access to food and water, and forced evictions while seeking refuge. It has become increasingly difficult for nongovernmental organizations and UN agencies to access and provide aid to Somalis due to Al-Shabab. Al-Shabab prohibits aid to areas under its control, blockading government-controlled towns from receiving resources. 

The people of Somalia, particularly the growing number of internally displaced people, need areas within Somalia that they can safely access to reliably receive food, water, shelter, medical treatment, and to find refuge from violence.

The Next Century Foundation also feels the protection of freedom of expression is paramount. The Somali government forces have responded to peaceful demonstrations with violence and lethal force. Innocent students, civilians, and children have all been harmed, arbitrarily arrested, or killed in response to demonstrations. Government forces and Al-Shabab continue to threaten, arrest, and kill journalists throughout Somalia. Reporters at private media outlets who have used social media platforms, like Facebook, to criticize various aspects of the government have been arrested and charged with crimes including insulting public officials, disrupting government work, and spreading propaganda. 

Along with protecting these freedoms in Somalia, we must not forget the Republic of Somaliland. The Next Century Foundation feels it is a disgrace that Somaliland is not recognized by nor is a member of the UN. The Somaliland government has even harsher restrictions on media and free expression than Somalia. Reporters and media outlets are consistently arbitrarily arrested, fined, and banned. The UN needs to protect the freedom of expression for citizens of both Somalia and Somaliland.