The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has today called on the Federal Government of Somalia to classify the media as essential service and open up the operating space for the media during the impending curfew imposed on Mogadishu.
In a press conference held in Mogadishu on Sunday, 12 April 2020, Somalia's Police Commissioner-General Abdi Hassan Mohamed (Hajar) said: “considering the urgency to minimize the spread of the disease (coronavirus) within the community, the federal government of Somalia announces that a dusk-to-dawn curfew (8 pm-5 am) would be enforced to Mogadishu from the evening April 15, 2020, until further notice”.
The police chief further added that “the curfew will affect all businesses, public, and transport movement except health centers and places offering essential food services”, and ordered the people in Mogadishu to adhere to the curfew and to go their homes ahead of the designated times of the curfew.
“In the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, we wish to appeal to the federal government to classify media as essential services so that media houses are open during the curfew and working journalists are able to pursue their professional duties to discharge a vital public interest mission of keeping citizens informed in line with their right to access to information through the provision of current news and enlightening information,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary-General.
NUSOJ acknowledges the bold decision and subsequent actions by the Federal Government to prevent and curb the spread of the coronavirus despite evident challenges and assures the government of the union's support towards national efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
“The media is unquestionably a critical component in the fight against this global pandemic. Actually, health services, security forces, and the media should play a complementary function in this regard, whereby journalists' movements and work should not be constrained,” added Osman.
Access to information is a constitutional right as specified by article 32 of the Provisional Constitution which also guarantees and promotes freedom of expression and opinion. If unhampered, the media can play its vibrant role of providing relevant and timely information and education to the public on the current pandemic as well as the measures that the government and citizens can take to curb and prevent infections and spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
NUSOJ urges the news media to be professional in conducting their legitimate journalistic duties and ethical responsibilities as this will go a long way in ensuring that people access accurate, trustworthy, verifiable and valuable information about the epidemic and how they can restrain and stop contamination and its spread in the society.