In a meeting held at Villa Somalia on Sunday, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed held a meeting with media representatives who were spearheaded by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) to raise concerns about threats to media freedom by new draft media law.
Somalia’s senate passed 14 January a contentious anti-media legislation, which will effectively silence critical reporting through a new government-controlled regulator, obligatory registration of journalists, effective prosecution of journalists, and forcing journalists to reveal their confidential sources.
NUSOJ highlighted contentious articles that are needed to be amended before the president assents with his signature into the bill to make it law. “This new media law will force journalists and news media organisations to self-censor to survive. The law contains several provisions that are a severe blow to independent and critical reporting in Somalia,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
He described the law as a “threat to the constitutional rights of the citizens”. “This draft bill is intended to silence journalists, to control media houses, and to criminalize the independent practice of journalism” said Omar Faruk
NUSOJ raised its concern on several articles and provisions such as who can be a journalist and who can get press cards. The draft bill mentions “courts” 16 times without specifying which court. “Such ambiguity is a pretext to further oppress Somali journalists” said Faruk.
The new media law will enable a new government-controlled media regulatory board to penalize journalists, fine journalists for undetermined amounts and pave the way for journalists to persecuted over vaguely worded “media crimes”. NUSOJ, on behalf of media practitioners, asked president Farmaajo not to sign such draconian law which will victimise the vulnerable journalists in the country.
President Farmaajo assured NUSOJ and other media rights advocates that the concerns of the journalists will be taken into consideration. He promised that he’ll look closely into the bill with the help of experts. He asked NUSOJ to provide more journalism trainings in order to enhance the knowledge and expertise of the journalists.
Both sides noted improvement on the safety of the journalists in Mogadishu unlike the tenures of the previous governments where attacks against journalists and oppression of the media were widespread.
The final legislation differs little from the original passed by the parliament in 2015.