Striking Journalists in Somalia Accuse Government Over New Media Law

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' organisation, today expressed its solidarity with Somali journalists who went on strike in the capital Mogadishu yesterday in protest against new draconian media legislation.

Despite more than a decade of violence, there are seven radio stations, more than 20 newspapers and two television stations in Mogadishu. A Somali-based journalist says only one local radio station was providing news on Wednesday as the strike got under way.

"This strike shows the commitment and determination of journalists to fight for their rights," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "even in a country where press freedom is often in the twilight." The IFJ says the Government must withdraw a new law, which it says could see the extinction of independent and critical journalism.

The row between the transitional government and the journalists began four days ago when the parliament endorsed the law imposing restrictions media activities. The law will go into effect upon signature by the President, who has so far refused to sign it.

Article 7 of the law prohibits the publication of anything against what is called the 'Common Interests', against Islam, against the concept of unity, against the politics of the country, against the security of the state or against the social affairs of the people. "This means don't talk, don't hear and don't see", said one Somali journalist.