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Somalia: “Utter Dismay” Over Continuous Violation of Trade Union Rights- NUSOJ

This statement was originally published on on May 16, 2016

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today expressed utter dismay and frustration by the actions of officials of the Federal Government of Somalia for their continued violations of the right to freedom of association and undue interference in internal union affairs in a desperate bid to promote “yellow” unionism and destroy existence of free and independent trade unionism.

The Federal Government, through its Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism, has been actively involved in backing media employers in the past 4 months to organise bogus “elective General Assembly of NUSOJ” in order to turn an independent trade union of journalists to a “yellow” union by crowning media managers as “elected union leaders”.

Yellow” union is purportedly a “worker” organization which is dominated or influenced by employers or a government, and is therefore not an independent trade union. “Yellow” unions are contrary to international labour law, particularly article 2 of ILO Convention 98, which Somalia ratified on 20 March 2014. Such unions are currently outlawed in many countries due to their use as agents for interference with independent unions. “Yellow” unions persist only with authoritarian governments.

The latest actions of a series of violations is threats of arrests and possible physical violence to be meted against member journalists of NUSOJ who organised themselves to protest peacefully in front of the Ministry of Information against organised & institutionalised union attacks led by the Minister of Information Mohamed Abdi Hayir and his officials, and police will be used against protesting journalists because they do not have “prior authorisation” to stage the protest.

This denial of the right to protest peacefully is a clear violation of the provisional Constitution of Federal Republic of Somalia. Clause 1, Article 20 of Somali Constitution stipulates, “Every person has the right to organize and participate in meetings, and to demonstrate and protest peacefully, without requiring prior authorization”.

NUSOJ is furthermore disturbed by unlawful threats against its members both employed by the Ministry of Information for Radio Mogadishu & SN TV, and few private media houses who threatened that member journalists would be sacked from work should they refuse to attend or challenge the bogus “NUSOJ General Assembly” organised by employers with the tacit approval and support of the Ministry. So far media employers dismissed six journalists while three workers were demoted because of their membership of NUSOJ. This is another violation of article 24 of provisional constitution of Somalia.

The union is also extremely concerned over reported attempts by the Ministry of Information to approach the management of Diplomatic Hotel where NUSOJ General Assembly which was disbanded in February 2016 was due to be held. The Ministry reportedly intends to record a video message or written/signed statement from the hotel management in which the management will be forced to deny that the NUSOJ General Assembly was disbanded by the government. The Ministry wants to use this an evidence to defend itself before the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, which had summoned it at the end of this month.

Nevertheless, NUSOJ has a recorded indisputable evidence of a communication from a government official, acting on the orders of higher government decision-maker to disband the General Assembly. This evidence was already presented to international human rights mechanism.

The fraudulent use of the name, logo and letterhead of NUSOJ without any actions from law enforcement authorities to stop and persecute such offenders corroborates the government’s overt approval for identity theft that employers are perpetuating.

One of the most falsified act was the usage of names of journalists for badges for the bogus meeting when they are not part of. Without the consent of journalists whose names were used, the organisers had the audacity to download pictures of the said journalists from their Facebook addresses and print them on badges as delegates for bogus meeting. Some of the journalists whose identities were falsified boldly came out and protested.

The Ministry of Information and private media owners who are both media employers are allies with a mutually beneficial relationship and any attempt to excuse the Ministry as a better employer or less exploitative is unsophisticated to say the least. They are common in economic exploitation and coercive nature against independent unionism and members.

“These most recent actions confirm sustained breach of Somali constitution and international Labour Organisation’s core standards on union freedom & labour relations with impunity despite international demands for fullest implementations of ILO conclusions and recommendations. Unfortunately they are additional violations to the long list of internationally recognized violations of human and trade union rights by the government,” declared Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

As the vanguard of the fundamental rights of country’s working and poor journalists, NUSOJ and its leadership were vilified and their credentials questioned by the Ministries of Information and Labour. The hostility to NUSOJ reached a crescendo when the union compliant at the ILO and administrative legal case at the Supreme Court of Somalia.

Similar to the vituperation directed at NUSOJ today, the Ministry of Information and the Ministry Labour have gallons of vitriolic oil for the independent national trade union centre, the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU). The union federation was insulted and labelled “workerist” for raising the necessity of independent working class politics and organisation.

“Our union, NUSOJ, is an ardent champion of journalists’ rights and press freedom, and is campaigning vociferously for the defence of freedom of association and union rights. We shall never bow to any pressure, smear campaign or intimidations by coercive institutions of political power and unscrupulous employers,” declared Osman.

NUSOJ has grown its numbers and scored victories because of its improved levels of service to members, mobilisation capacity both nationally & internationally, and militancy. The union is simply witch-hunted because of its lack of proximity to government.

“What we clearly see is that if you do not agree with the approach and domination of the concerned ministries you are an enemy that must be dealt with and defeated through State institution,” added NUSOJ Secretary General.

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