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Somali media law open for consultation

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Forty-five media stakeholders gathered on Monday, 18 February in Mogadishu to consult about the state of the media in Mogadishu, with a particular focus on media law reform, the security and persecution of journalists. 

The stakeholders welcomed the decision of the government— through the Ministry of Information, Telecommunications and Posts— in opening the 2007 media law for consultation. 

The media law, which was hastily passed by the former transitional federal parliament in Baidoa on 8 December 2007, is not in line with the provisional federal constitution of Somalia and it does not meet international standards, despite repeated appeals from the media community against it. 

The media law of 2007 fails to preserve freedom of expression and media freedom. The government has control over the media with this law, by determining rules for media operation and by defining journalists' professional standards. With this law, media freedom and the right to freedom of expression can be restricted in violation of international law, due to overly broad definitions, vaguely phrased articles and the creation of vaguely defined prohibitions and disproportionate punishments for journalists and media organizations. 

The consultative meeting, which was organized by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), called for a “far-reaching review of the media law” to ensure it is in conformity with Somalia's provisional constitution, and respects international standards on freedom of expression and information.

“We are pleased by the government's initiative to open the media law for consultation [for review] within the first three months of its existence” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General, who mentioned that previous cabinets of the former Transitional Federal Government failed to honour their promises to review this law. 

The meeting agreed to put together a committee to review the law in consultations with media stakeholders and other concerned stakeholders in order to repeal the problematic provisions in this law. 

The meeting also examined the proposed communication bill, which is thought to be needlessly problematic by media stakeholders. This bill does not repeal the December 2007 media law, confuses the media's efforts to amend the 2007 media law, and does not stand for the needs and ownership of Somalis. 

The meeting was “united in its concern that Somalia is increasingly unsafe for journalists, to gather and relay information and views” considering the increased killings of journalists in last year. 

Welcoming the announcement of the Prime Minister of Somalia Abdi Farah Shirdoon in financially rewarding anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who have killed journalists, the meeting called on the government “to establish a special protection force for journalists by formally empowering it to investigate crimes against journalists and [lay] charges.” 

Troubled by the continued persecution of journalists under Somalia's penal code, the meeting called upon the government “to end use of the Somali Penal Code against journalists for practicing journalistic work.” 

The media Stakeholders collectively decided, “to start a countrywide campaign to defend media freedom and journalists' identities while opposing measures to muzzle the media.”

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