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Controversial draft media law submitted to Council of Ministers in Somalia

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) expressed dismay and dissatisfaction at the Information Minister's recent move to submit the controversial draft media law to the Council of Ministers without thorough consultation with the Somali Media Fraternity as agreed.

The Somali Minister of Information, Mustaf Sheikh Ali Dhuhulow submitted the secretively drafted document to the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers on Thursday with the intention of the Council of Ministers endorsing it so that the parliament can approve it.

"This is clearly breach of confidence, as the journalists honoured the minister's word that they'll be given an opportunity to go through and incorporate their input into the draft bill before it's being presented to the cabinet in order to observe inclusivity and transparency," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

“We would like to strongly voice our concern at the lack of proper consultation with independent media stakeholders during the preparation of the current draft media law.”

The endeavours to develop a democratic media law for Somalia have suffered from lack of inclusivity, transparency, participation, and political will from the ministry.

The Ministry of Information remains steadfast in not including all media stakeholders of Somalia in the development of new media law, and Minister Dhuhulow chose individuals who are close friends and companions of the Ministry officials.

The media community consider Minister Dhuhulow of practicing his power and influence by using a so-called technical committee of media law reform, which is dominated by employees of his Ministry as well as his friends and relatives.

After seeing the draft secretly circulated to the Council of Ministers, NUSOJ is seriously concerned that the proposed new draft law will not bring the much needed reform that the union, amongst many others, has long called for; instead, the draft would likely serve to maintain media restrictions and Ministry's control over independent media.

The draft media law threatens to undermine efforts by media professionals to establish genuine self-regulation. It fails to recognize the fast-moving reality of journalism and will discriminate against journalists working for foreign media.

The draft media law is designed to protect governmental privileges, rather than serve any public purpose, such as the right of the people of Somalia to be informed about the processes under which they are governed.

There is great uncertainty about previous media law of December 2007, which needs to be repealed. The government, through the Ministry of Information, has failed to change this media law, which is restricting the right to freedom of expression, and rather decided to enact new law while this law still remains in the books.

“This draft media law is dangerous, unworkable and could limit freedom of expression. Furthermore the current efforts of media law reform are problematic, both because they failed to involve key players in all regions of Somalia in the process and because the substance of the draft is inadequate to protect media freedom” declared Osman.

NUSOJ called upon the Council of Ministers and the Parliament not to endorse the current draft media law submitted by Minister Mustaf Dhuhulow, until the Minister honours his commitment with the stakeholders.

“We believe that far more honest, transparent, inclusive consultation with stakeholders, not chosen on the basis of cronyism, nepotism or favouritism, will be needed before draft media law with such far-reaching consequences for the media should be submitted for discussion in Council of Ministers,” declared Osman.

The union further called on Somali journalists and international press freedom community to condemn the move by Minister Dhuhulow to submit this controversial draft media law to the Council of Ministers, and mount a campaign against the draft media law.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
  • IFJ calls on Somali government to re-draft "repressive" media law

    "We understand the fear of Somali journalists that, if enacted, the law could be used to clamp down on dissenting media houses and their workers. It would refer purported media offences to the judiciary, which currently remains weak, and part and parcel of the executive branch. The law stipulates that journalists should be forced to disclose their sources in a court of law, something the global unions of journalists would never accept."



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