The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed its serious concern about the proposed media law that is currently being drafting in Somalia, stating that in its present form it would restrict the work of journalists and undermine media freedom and freedom of expression.
In a letter sent to the Prime Minister of Somalia, Abdweli Sheikh Ahmed, the IFJ has called on the Prime Minister and the country’s council of ministers to re-start the drafting of the law’s text in a manner that is “inclusive and transparent”, stating that it has been drafted without the normal consultation with relevant stakeholders, including IFJ’s affiliate, the National Union of Somalia Journalists (NUSOJ).
Signed by IFJ President Jim Boumelha, the letter says that, apart from vague formulations in its provisions and articles, the law is seeking to establish a “media regulatory mechanism” that is controlled by the country’s Ministry of Information and is likely to be used against independent media.
Rather than serving a public purpose, such as the right of the people of Somalia to be informed about the processes under which they are governed, the IFJ believes the law seems “designed instead to protect government privileges.”
The letter says: “We understand the fear of Somali journalists that, if enacted, the law could be used to clamp down on dissenting media houses and their workers. It would refer purported media offences to the judiciary, which currently remains weak, and part and parcel of the executive branch. The law stipulates that journalists should be forced to disclose their sources in a court of law, something the global unions of journalists would never accept.”
The IFJ has also called on the Prime Minister to repeal Somalia’s previous “draconian” media law from 2007 which restricts the right to freedom of expression, stating that the country’s leadership now has an opportunity to create a media law that encourages the development of a pluralistic, inclusive media offering a platform for a democratic discourse and supporting Somalia’s peace building process and democratisation.
The letter concludes by urging the Prime Minister and the council of ministers to refer back the draft text and re-start the drafting to ensure openness and consultation with relevant media stakeholders across the country in order to develop “progressive and transparent legal mechanisms for media.
The IFJ believes that the law can not be described as “repressive’ in its current form, and has advised Prime Minister Ahmed that it will work with the International TUC to “oppose it and campaign against it in every way.”
For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries