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Stakeholders push for amendments to Media Law

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 30 October 2009 - Journalists, media owners, lawyers, government officials, members of civil society and parliamentarians want the Media Law passed in December 2007 by the transitional federal parliament amended forthwith.

The stakeholders, who met on 27 and 28 October 2009 at the Sahafi Hotel in Mogadishu, discussed sections of the law that they want amended.

The media law consultative meeting, which was organized by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) in collaboration with the Dutch media support organization, Press Now, was held to enable Somali Media Law stakeholders to discuss in detail the law, which contains a series of repressive articles, in order to come up with recommendations and form a representative and independent media council.

"These repressive articles must be amended before we can sit down to talk about the composition of a Media Council," said NUSOJ coordinator Abdirashid Abdullahi Haydar, who spoke on behalf of the union. "When the government opened this law for drastic review and disbanded the council, we were asked by both the government and stakeholders to facilitate the process. As a member, we are proud to help the process move forward," he added.

The consultative meeting, which drew more than 45 participants from southern and central Somalia, was officially opened by the director general of the Ministry of Information, Abdirisak Ali Yusuf, who spoke both on behalf of the ministry and the minister himself, reiterating the importance of the consultative process that NUSOJ is once again spearheading.

Abdirisak said that the government is determined to fully support the initiative aimed at coming up with instruments to facilitate media freedom and growth in Somalia. He urged the participants to discuss the law without any reservations and guaranteed the government's honest participation.

MP Amina Omar Jama, the acting chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Arts of the Transitional Federal Parliament, said she was disappointed over the worsening working conditions for Somali journalists. She reminded the participants that the law was above all.

"Today, the media law is before you. There is a window of opportunity. You have the chance to review it and give your proposals for amendments," she said.

After deliberations, the participants decided on 18 articles to be amended and agreed on the proposed amendments.

On 3 May, the then minister of information declared the Media Law open for review, during a commemoration of World Press Freedom Day. On that occasion, the Media Council was disbanded after the media fraternity objected to its activities and composition saying it lacked credibility, confidence and independence.

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