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Media outlets risk being shut down under new licensing system in Somalia

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) has today rejected the licensing system announced by the Ministry of Information, Posts, Telecommunication and Transport of the Federal Government of Somalia as “unlawful”.

The Minister of Information, Posts, Telecommunication and Transport, Abdullahi Ilmooge Hersi, had given his Ministry of Information broad powers to issue and revoke licenses for radio and TV stations and printing presses. The Minister gave private media outlets until 10 November to register at his ministry and obtain licenses without specifying the fees to pay and the criteria. The Minister requested from the Ministry of Interior & National Security to close down any media houses without licences after 10 November.

This announcement contravenes the media law of December 2007 which does not give the Ministry of Information the legal powers to run licensing authorities and clearly infringes articles 18 and 32 of the provisional constitution which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.

“This licensing system is controlled by the Minister of Information in his complete discretion. It does not have clear, open and transparent licensing criteria which are consistent with the goal of promoting pluralistic, independent and diverse media sector,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. “We condemn this unlawful and demoralising announcement, and call for its immediate retraction”.

The new licensing regime fails to be in sync with regional and international instruments on the right to freedom of expression, media freedom and the citizens' right to access to information, particularly the principles of the African Charter on Human Rights, the Banjul Declaration on the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa, and the African Charter on Broadcasting.

NUSOJ is particularly worried about the blatant request by the Minister of Information, Telecommunication, Posts and Transport to the Interior & National Security Ministry to shut down media houses that do not comply with this unconstitutional statement. “This shows naked intent to shut up independent and critical media through this licensing regime,” added Osman.

The illegal licensing system is open for the ministry to delay or deny licenses to certain media houses deemed to be critical to the government, and to use as an intimidating tactic against independent and critical media houses whose licences can be arbitrarily withdrawn any time.

NUSOJ implores the federal government to go beyond rhetorical commitments and demoralising attacks on media by taking visible and tangible steps to free the media space as stipulated in the provisional constitution. The union insists on independent media self-regulation as the only solution to media freedom and independence.

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