African Union Mission in Somalia

Twenty-one Somali journalists have undergone training on key principles of responsible coverage of elections, which are critical to the holding of a fair, transparent, credible and peaceful elections process.

The training, held in Mogadishu, was organized by the Department of Peace, Security and Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, through the African Union Commission Electoral Assistance Mission to Somalia in partnership with the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT) and the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

The journalists were appraised of the fundamental principles of objective reporting. These included independence, neutrality, honesty, fairness and balanced reporting. They also had training on election observation guidelines, international and regional elections instruments and standards used for reporting on elections as well as training on election security. The training also covered what constitute free and fair elections.

The Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (DSRCC) for Somalia, Simon Mulongo, who presided over the official opening of the training, said the role of journalists was particularly crucial during contested elections.

To prevent conflict, he added, journalists must depend on their professional skills to deliver thorough, verified, and unbiased information to their listeners, readers and viewers. “You must report correctly, accurately and objectively. Because of the anxieties that envelop communities during elections, you must report correctly and refrain from publishing information that encourages division, incite violence or jeopardize social cohesion,” said Mulongo.

Furthermore, the DSRCC said that “as AMISOM we are just supporting you. Soon we will have to leave. As we speak we are transitioning and in the next short period of time, we will be leaving. We want to leave Somalia that is standing on its feet and is able to conduct its business by themselves and for themselves.”

The Chairman of the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT), Mohamed Hassan Ciro made a commitment to the journalists announcing that there will be no election conducted at any polling station in the absence of the media. He stressed that “what distinguishes us from other previous election committees is the guidelines we have that stipulates that there will be no election that can commence at a voting station if the media is not there”.

He also stated that “we are doing this because we know how important the media is to the people. Information on the conduct of elections at the polling station is a requirement for a transparent and fair election process”.

Ms. Titi Pitso, a member of the team of experts of the African Union Electoral Assistance Mission to Somalia, embedded with FEIT to provide technical assistance to the electoral body, said the training was part of broader technical assistance provided to ensure transparency of the polls.

“Bringing together journalists from across the country will help in terms of enhancing democracy. We know that journalists are very important in disseminating information to the nation. Their coming here and being trained on objective election reporting will help towards enhancing the process. AMISOM and the African Union Commission, are keen on ensuring that we prepare the electoral stakeholders like the media people well enough so they can be able to report on the process”, Ms. Pitso said.

The journalists trained during the Workshop, represented media houses from across all the five Federal Member States of Somalia and the Banadir Region. Najmo Osman, a correspondent for Jubaland TV who attended her first training on election reporting, said their actions will influence the public opinion and thus the credibility of the elections.

He stressed that “this training came at a time when it is most needed. Some of the participants are attending such training for the first time. This is an opportunity that they highly need and I want to thank NUSOJ and AMISOM for organizing this course for journalists to have an understanding of the fundamentals of election reporting”.

Election for members of the Senate is almost complete, with only two seats remaining vacant in the 54 member house. The country is now preparing to conduct elections for members of the House of the People. The two houses of parliament will then jointly elect the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia.

Also present at the training were Robert Gerenge, the Principal Advisor for the Africa Union, Col. Kennedy Okoro, a member of the African Union Electoral Assistance Mission to Somalia, AMISOM Political Affairs Officer, Sayid Ali Hersi and Nima Hassan, the Executive Organizing Secretary of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union Mission in Somalia.

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