More than Eighty (80) media practitioners of journalists, editors and media owners expressed on Tuesday, 30 July, their concern about the prospects of the Somali media regulation.
Media practitioners once more voiced that the draft media law has potentially devastating effect on media freedom and the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the provisional Constitution of Somalia.
Under the draft law, the newly created National Media Council has broad authority to regulate all domestic and international media–including print, broadcast, and the Internet. This intricate bureaucracy is endowed with vast powers to interpret and implement the many vaguely worded provisions of the proposed law.
The draft media law is fraught with broad and ambiguous terms that are left to the Ministry of Information and the National Media Council alone to interpret and apply. Multiple articles in the draft Media law raise alarm, including its article on journalism ethics.
The independent media expressed doubts over the seriousness of the Ministry of Information in protecting media freedom. Instead of genuine and constructive engagement with the predominantly independent media, officials at the ministry hastily organized a meeting between government media officers and three foreign “experts” while excluding the apprehensive media fraternity.
The independent media blamed the Ministry of Information for not conducting broader and inclusive consultations on the draft law, colluding with none-Somali individuals instead of engaging with Somalia’s independent media, organizing unrepresentative meeting in February 2013 that resulted roundly condemned draft media law and ignoring the recommendations by the media on revising 2007 Media law.
“Such a meeting on media law by the Ministry do little to address the serious concerns expressed by our union and the larger media community and in some case may make matters worse,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
The media fraternity yesterday rebuffed the committee put together by the Ministry of Information to revise the draft media, which excluded Somalia’s independent media and media freedom advocates while bringing on board none-Somali individuals whose actions were termed upsetting and obstructing the struggle of the independent media.
The media community welcomed the engagement of Prime Minister of Somalia Abdi Farah Shirdoon towards independent media and is prepared to cooperate with his in amending this draft media law. Yesterday’s meeting was attended by the Spokesperson of the Government who delivered a message from the Prime Minister.
An Independent Media Taskforce of journalists, media owners and editors were nominated to engage dialogue with the government, parliament and the media in other regions of the country to develop progressive media law for Somalia.
The media community deplored the attempt to close down yesterday’s meeting of the media professionals by police that were reportedly working on the instructions of some government officials who did not want the media to meet. The office of the Prime Minister quickly intervened and removed the police from the meeting venue.
The media cautioned officials at the Government to avoid committing violation of the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of association and right to protest as enshrined in the constitution of Somalia, particularly articles 16, 18 and 20.
“The threat to use security forces to deny media professionals to enjoy their fundamental rights is flagrant violations of freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly that we will not keep quite,” added Osman.