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As Somaliland Journalists Jailed, Fight Back by FUNCA Member, UN Contrasted

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 3 -- With the UN less and less willing to answer questions, whether about which Congolese Army units it works with or even which Syria villages Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was referring to in a July 2 statement, there's been talk of a media strike at the UN.

  Some have proposed not going to the UN noon briefing, not asking questions, even not writing stories. But that might be just what the UN has in mind. And many large media have already reduced their UN presence and coverage substantially.

  The view of Inner City Press and the new Free UN Coalition for Access is that in New York and places like it, the better response is simply to report more, to ask more questions and report on the (non) answers, to talk with more sources and dig deeper.

  But we realize that in some other places the possibilities and dynamics are different.

  For example in Somaliland, on which Inner City Press has been reporting for months, Free UN Coalition for Access member Mohamoud Walaaleye has protested the Hargeisa Regional Court's sentencing to prison of Hubaal newspaper's manager Mohamed Ahmed Jama Aloley for one year and editor Hassan Hussein Kefkef, for two years.

  This was on charges of “propagating false information,” reporting on smuggling by diplomats and the capacities of elected officials, and came after an attack on the newspaper's office by authorities and a suspension of publication.

  Mohamoud Walaaleye, who asks questions not only in Hargeisa but to UN officials, tells us that the “Somaliland media association, (SOLJA) is incapacitated to reach a common stand condemning this action. For that, I, Mohamoud Walaaleye, reached a decision of withholding all my journalism activities till the discharged of the jail sentences of my colleagues at Hubaal newspaper.”

  Now that, and to a lesser degree this, is what solidarity is all about. By contrast, UN headquarters' chosen partner UNCA tried in 2012 to get the investigative press thrown out of the UN; its first vice president passed internal “UNCA only” documents immediately to UN officials, here.

  The Free UN Coalition for Access has been founded to counter all that. Not only has the UN fought it, it has tried to even outlaw the name and sign of FUNCA. But UNCA has two signs and more, much more. We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

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