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Somalia's draft media law is still too repressive, says journalists' union

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) deplores the announcement by the Minister of Information, Posts, Telecommunication and Transportation that he will soon present a draft media law to the parliament.

Minister Abdullahi Ilmooge Hersi declared through the media on Sunday, 13 October, his intention to submit draft laws on media and telecommunications to the federal government.

NUSOJ criticizes the draft media law as it lacks adequate safeguards to ensure respect of a number of media rights, including freedom of expression. The latest draft consists of superficial improvements to a 11 July draft, but still envisages repressive provisions. A number of provisions are insufficiently clear and leave room for broad interpretation that can be used against journalists.

“We regret that the process of drafting this important legislation was conducted without broad and extensive consultations with the independent media community in the country,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

NUSOJ calls on the independent media community to raise up and mount a national campaign to resist the Minister of Information, Posts, Telecommunication and Transportation's declared intention.

“The drafting process has not been transparent, and the possibility of independent media stakeholders' input and views has been extremely restricted due to a hostile attitude by the officials at the Ministry to injudiciously want to pass this law...[They have] excluded the independent media community; encouraged by foreigners who have vested interests in controlling the process of the drafting”.

The federal government, through Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdoon, pledged broad consultations, and that the draft law would not be taken to parliament without the will and the support of the independent media community. Sunday's announcement contradicts the Prime Minister's commitment and pledge.

“If this draft law is passed by the parliament and promulgated by the president and goes into effect, it will leave a permanent threat hanging over Somali journalists and news media,” added Osman.

The draft version of the law has not been publically available and the independent media community have not been able to contribute to the discussion of the draft text. NUSOJ perceives that the lack of such a process has led to widespread denunciation of the draft law, and to questions of its legitimacy.

“The problem is the method used by the ministry, which wants to force [the law] through anyhow”, declared Osman. “We did not accept the previous draft and we won't let the current draft – which is harsh and severe – to go to parliament unopposed”.

The union further calls on regional and international press freedom advocacy groups to extend their solidarity to Somalia's independent media, and to support resistance against media rights suppression in the draft media law.

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