Somalia has several journalistic associations that operate as non-governmental organisations. These include: the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA), the Media Association Puntland (MAP), the Somalia Media Association (SOMA) and others. There are also specific women’s journalist associations such as the Somali Women Journalist Rights Association (SOWRJA) and the Somali Media Women Association (SOMWA) in South Central Somalia. To a certain extent these associations work together. Although the capacity of these associations is still in the development phase, they do provide basic support for journalists. Next to this, SOLJA en MAP recently established a registration mechanism for their members and they act as counterparts in developing media laws and improving the general operation environment for journalists in cooperation with the government. Furthermore, the leadership of each association is chosen, with a mandate that runs in general between 3 to 5 years.
NUSOJ is the first independently established association based in Mogadishu, which was created after the collapse of the state in 1991. It was founded in 2002 in response to an attempt by the Transitional National Government to re-establish regulations over the media. Journalist Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, who was elected Secretary General of the Union in May 2016, leads the NUSOJ after conflict with the previous Secretary General Omar Farouk.
In 2016, during the 328th session of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva the NUSOJ along with the Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) took a case against the Somali government for infringing on the freedom of association, which they won. This shows how despite the challenges in growth and the various threats, there is an independent free trade union movement in Somalia.
In Somaliland, the Somaliland Journalist Association (SOLJA) is the largest umbrella association in the breakaway territory. The SOLJA was established in 2012 and is run by an elected committee of prominent Somaliland journalists. The SOLJA is a membership-based association which conducts advocacy, research and campaigns on issues of freedom of speech in Somaliland; it also runs a website and several social media platforms such as a Facebook group which has over 2,000 members.
The Somali Media Women Association (SOMWA) was established in 2006 to support women journalists. This association describes itself as a non-profit, non-political organisation dedicated to advocating for the rights of women journalists in the country. The SOMWA operates from Baidoa, a town north of Mogadishu. SOMWA operates in three regions, namely Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle. The association is membership-led and is managed by a general assembly, a board of directors and a management committee.
A recent addition to Somalia’s growing list of journalist associations is the Somali Media Independent Houses Association (SIMHA). Established in 2013, SIMHA is centered on supporting Somali media companies to foster innovation across their output. There are also journalist networks that exist solely on Facebook. Such as the Somaliland Journalists Network, which is a group made up of prominent Somaliland journalists who share information and support each other.
Furthermore, in 2018 the Somalia Multi-stakeholder platform was launched. This dialogue forum for the safety of journalists in Somalia is a declaration which, among other issues, called for developing a national multi-stakeholder coordination system bringing on board the three arms of government (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary) and all other media stakeholders with a mandate to promote and defend freedom of expression, press freedom, access to information and safety of journalists, comprehensively addressing the safety of journalists in the respective countries and in line with the national, regional and global resolutions.
The mechanism will be led by an 11-person National Coordination Committee consisting of 4 representatives from media associations, 4 from the government and four from civil society, with at least three of them being women drawn from the three representative groups. This is an initiative of UNESCO together with Somali Media Support Group (SMSG) and local journalist’s associations and the Somali government.
Though there are a number of journalists associations in Somalia most of them do not cooperate, often they have smaller memberships and cannot always meet journalists’ needs. Another issue is that associations can be perceived to be belonging to a certain clan group, which can harm their perceived legitimacy.