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Proposed new media law undermines freedom of expression, says NUSOJ

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The Somaliland Ministry of Information has drafted and proposed a new media law that undermines internationally accepted standards of freedom of expression.

The new draft law increases the powers of the Ministry of Information to control the media. It also gives the Minister of Information the power to suspend media organizations, arrest journalists and take over ownership of media organizations. The proposed law empowers the Minister of Information to intervene in the managerial, financial and editorial systems of the media outlet.

The proposed law recognizes a journalist as anyone that holds a press card issued by the Ministry of Information. The Ministry can withdraw the press card. Journalists working with local media and international media cannot carry out professional assignments without the permission of the Ministry of Information, according to this draft law.

The current draft was not submitted to the Somaliland House of Representatives, according to Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA). The Somaliland media strongly protested the draft as a move designed to curb freedom of expression.

"The draft legislation seriously poses a threat to media's freedom of expression in Somaliland," said Omar Faruk Osman, secretary general of NUSOJ. "If adopted by Somaliland's legislative assembly, it will be an attack by Somaliland on freedom of the press."

NUSOJ backs appeals made by SOLJA to make the draft legislation a law that is well-matched to international standards of freedom of expression. "We are in solidarity with our Somaliland colleagues, and the current unreasonable, unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions in this draft will certainly cause local and international protests, if passed as it is now.

"We urge the Somaliland government to open dialogue with the media on this draft legislation and take steps to ensure freedom of the media is respected by proposed laws," Omar Faruk said.

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