The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is closely monitoring a complaint lodged at the Office of the Attorney General against Mr. Abdirahman Jeylani Mohamed, Director of Arlaadi Media, filed by Mr. Mohamed Yusuf Ali, the district commissioner of Wajid District in Bakool region.
According to the official complaint document, the complaint filed against Arlaadi Media Director is grounded in Articles 2, 4, and 5 of the Amended Media Law of Somalia. The complainant's legal representatives assert that Arlaadi Media “intentionally defamed” their client and caused “harm” to his reputation through the dissemination of “baseless news”. The specific allegations are as follows:
- “Our client, the Chairman of Wajid district in Bakool region, collects money from individuals ranging from $100 to $300.
- He engages in personal calls and meetings with people.
- He threatens people with imprisonment if they fail to pay the demanded money.
- The money collected is allegedly intended to procure weapons for a term extension (referring to Southwest Presidency).
- The most affected individuals are the businessmen of Wajid District.”
The complaint emphasizes that broadcasting “false news”, “baseless propaganda” targeting individuals or organizations, and disseminating “hateful” and “extremism-based news” are strictly prohibited under the Somali Media Law Code No. 26 of 30/07/2020.
NUSOJ has reviewed the three links to the broadcasts in question and found that the reports displayed a one-sided perspective, mainly focusing on one individual. By providing only one side of the story, the broadcasts may have presented an incomplete and biased picture, undermining journalistic integrity and principles of accuracy, fairness, and objectivity.
Professional journalism, which has a duty to uncover the truth and present a comprehensive range of viewpoints and facts to allow informed opinions without fear or favour, requires thorough investigations, verified information, and inclusion of multiple perspectives. Neglecting these practices compromises journalistic quality and risks misleading the audience.
The complainant's lawyers have appealed to the Office of the Attorney General to take action against the Director of Arlaadi Media for alleged “violations” of the Amended Media Law and the Penal Code of Somalia. However, NUSOJ vehemently opposes using the penal code, as it does not support media freedom and is unsuitable for resolving these issues.
NUSOJ emphasizes the importance of preserving media freedom and believes that alleged “media offenses”should be addressed within the framework of media laws and international standards of freedom of expression, rather than through criminal charges in the Penal Code. This approach supports responsible journalism, protects individual rights, and fosters an independent media.
By advocating against the use of the penal code, NUSOJ aims to strike a balance between responsible journalism and freedom of expression. This approach allows for addressing any perceived “grievances”regarding media conduct while upholding democratic values and encouraging accountability, without excessively restricting press freedom.
NUSOJ also urges politicians to refrain from using specific media outlets for their political agendas, especially during sensitive times like elections and political disputes. It is crucial to allow the journalists and their news media organizations to report freely, independently, and in a professional manner.