The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) held yesterday, 9 July 2015, in Mogadishu a private lobby meeting with 32 Members of the Federal Parliament on the need to seriously reform the Media Law 2008 and further amend the current draft media law which was distributed to parliamentarians for debate, amendment and approval.
The parliamentarians were provided with eighteen (18) articles in the current draft media law which are not in line with article 18 of provisional constitution of Somalia which guarantees the right to freedom of expression & opinion, and article 32 of the provisional constitution of Somalia, which guarantees the right of access to information.
Speaking at the meeting with MPs, NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman said: “We implore the parliament to see the enormous benefits of a free media in this country that goes beyond simple political issues but plays a part in the development of the whole society”.
“With all the efforts and the resources provided by donor community for media law reform to a government-led process, the outcome is an obnoxious draft media law. It is now for the parliament to protect media freedom and remove fear from the hearts of journalists”.
NUSOJ hired two legal experts, who also explained how the draft media law is against Somalia international obligations particularly African Charter on Human & People’s Rights, International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights and Universal declaration of Human Rights. The current draft text is also not along the lines of the spirit of Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic Press (1991) and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression by the African Commission on Human & People’s Rights.
The contentious anti-media legislation, which was passed by on 1 September 2014 by Somalia’s Council of Ministers, introduces strict media restrictions and heavy fines in an attempt to control the independent media under the guise of media regulation.
The broad restrictions laid out by draft media law invite both its abuse by Somali authorities to silence their critics, control independent media, disproportionately punish journalists with hefty fines and self-censorship on the part of journalists and media houses in order to avoid potential repercussions.
NUSOJ’s position to the lawmakers on the draft media is the ostensible truth that whatever media law reform is made and passed by parliament, there should be clear understanding of independent media being a tool for the promotion of freedom of expression, access to information, economic & social development, political tolerance and empowerment of citizens.
The meeting also considered various legal provisions such as the Penal Code which NUSOJ identified to be archaic and being used to prosecute journalists and media managers. Legal provisions in Somali Penal code are scuttling citizens’ full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and access to information.
While Somalia’s provisional constitution adequately guarantees freedom of expression, freedom of the media and access to information, the operating environment of the media is still littered with legal and extra-legal hindrances that affect media operations.
NUSOJ is a national union representing Somali journalists to promote and protect freedom of the press and the interests and rights of journalists. It is a member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Freedom of Expression exchange (IFEX), African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX), Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA). NUSOJ is partner with Reporters without Borders (RWB).