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NAFEO protests problematic press bill, urges president not to give his assent

(MFWA/IFEX) - The following 25 March 2008 statement has been forwarded by MFWA on behalf of the Network of African Free Expression Organisations (NAFEO):

Call on President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed not to assent to the media bill

Accra, 25 March 2008 - The Network of African Freedom of Expression Organisations (NAFEO) has learned with dismay of the adoption by the Transitional Parliament of Somalia of a new press bill which blatantly violates press freedom and freedom of expression.

The new law contravenes international legal instruments which guarantee press freedom, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The law is also likely to limit media organisations' operations by compelling existing organisations to register with the Minister of Information. That could give the administration the power to silence critical media.

In addition to several conditions imposed on the foreign media for operating in the country, the law undermines the independent self-regulatory mechanism by excluding press freedom and civil society organisations from the National Media Council.

The application of this law will result undoubtedly in a decline of press freedom and freedom of expression in Somalia.

NAFEO is very concerned about the use of such legislation in an already harsh environment such as what prevails in Somalia to silence the media, violate free speech and curtail the right to know of citizens of Somalia.

Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the World for journalists. In 2007, 8 media workers were killed while several others were seriously injured.

The Transitional Authorities should rather seek to ensure the safety of journalists and media houses.

The Network of African Freedom of Expression Organisations (NAFEO):

1. Condemns the adoption by Parliament of this draconian bill;
2. Calls on President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed not to assent to this media bill;
3. Urges the Transitional Federal Government to initiate a revision of the law by consulting civil society and media professional organisations;
4. Calls on Somali authorities to allow journalists to work independently without any threat and intimidation through the use of the restrictive legislation.

The Network of African Freedom of Expression Organisations (NAFEO) promotes and defends press freedom and freedom of expression on the continent. It was established in October 2005 by several significant freedom of expression Organisations in Africa.

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