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Tell the Somali government not to endorse controversial draft media law

Stand with Somalia’s journalists and send an email to the Prime Minister of Somalia today!

Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed delivers a speech at the Parliament Building in Mogadishu, 21 December 2013
Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed delivers a speech at the Parliament Building in Mogadishu, 21 December 2013

REUTERS/Omar Faruk

A new media law that would restrict the work of journalists and undermine media freedom and access to information in Somalia is in the process of being approved by the Parliament of Somalia, reports the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). Click here to read a preliminary analysis of the text provided by Reporters Without Borders.

Send an email now to the Prime Minister of Somalia!

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, 19 June 2014, for endorsement by the Council of Ministers prior to parliamentary approval. As of 30 June 2014, the council of ministers was expected to discuss it within the next seven days.

The draft media law curtails media freedom, and violates journalists' right to information and therefore their ability to share information in the public interest. Its vaguely worded provisions and articles will:

  • Endanger confidential sources of journalists;
  • Provide more powers to the Ministry of Information to issue licences and charge unspecified fees, which could be used to force independent media to censor themselves;
  • Impose a media regulatory body controlled by the Ministry of Information; and
  • Discriminate against journalists working for foreign media in Somalia.

Fill in the box above right and automatically send an email to the Prime Minister of Somalia asking him not to endorse the draft repressive media law, and to send it back for honest, transparent, inclusive, participatory consultation with stakeholders in all regions of the country. Read the full text below.

The letter

His Excellency Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed
Prime Minister
Federal Government of Somalia

Cc: H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Federal Republic of Somalia

Your Excellency,

I am deeply concerned over the draft media law submitted by the Minister of Information Mustaf Sheikh Ali Dhuhulow to the Council of Ministers on Thursday, 19 June 2014 for discussions and endorsement.

This proposed law was secretively drafted without the normal consultation of relevant stakeholders. In its present form, the draft law would restrict the work of journalists and undermine media freedom and freedom of expression.

Provisions and articles of this draft media law are vaguely worded and formulated. It contains illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression, which violate the provisional constitution of Somalia.

The draft law seeks to establish a media regulatory mechanism under the control of the Ministry of Information. It provides no guarantee of its independence and does not specify its composition – how its members are appointed, how it functions, how it is funded and what sanctions it can impose.

Under the draft media law, the news media – including print media – would have to register and apply for a licence from the information ministry (not an independent authority), without which it would be illegal for them to publish.

The proposed text refers repeatedly to the withdrawal of licences, clearly using this as a threat that should always hang over the media, and at no time refers to the need for this or other sanctions to be proportional. Withdrawing a licence should be an exceptional measure.

Defamation, national security, stability and the concept of false information are not defined in the draft law. Based on “reasonable” grounds, journalists’ right to information can be banned. This is a deliberate violation of article 32 of Somalia’s provisional constitution and international standards of free expression.

Contrary to what is stated in the text, the confidentiality of journalists’ sources is not guaranteed. Defamation still remains criminal in the penal code of Somalia. The draft media law does not protect journalists from criminalisation of defamation.

Somali people are hungry for independent news and credible journalism. Somali journalists have paid a dear price, and do not deserve a dangerous and repressive media law that takes away their remaining freedom and rights.

I ask you to undertake the necessary measures to create a media environment that will allow journalists to work without fear of harassment or intimidation. Please do not endorse this draft media law in its present form, but send it back for honest, transparent, inclusive consultations with media stakeholders across Somalia.

Stand with journalists, protect media freedom, stand for freedom of expression, and do not let your government be dragged into a dark page of history by enacting such a controversial and repressive media law.


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