IFJ lauds declaration to decriminalise journalism in Somalia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has welcomed the announcement by Somalia’s President to repeal harsh laws which criminalised freedom of expression and journalism.

Speaking on World Press Freedom Day, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo said he committed to scrap Somalia’s excessively harsh and severe Penal Code which was enacted in 1964 “to ensure it is not used against journalists”.

President Farmaajo said his “administration fully supports the decriminalisation of journalism and free expression through legal reform” and “will not tolerate any infringement against the press.”

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said the global watchdog commended President Farmaajo for making this important declaration to repeal the Penal Code of Somalia with the explicit intention of protecting journalists and freedom of expression.

Penal code threat to media

“This is a crucial achievement not only for journalism in Somalia, but a great encouragement for enjoying the right to freedom of expression” he said.

The Somali Penal Code is one of the biggest threats to media freedom in Somalia as it contains provisions outlawing insult, false news, sedition and certain types of defamation, which expressly criminalise various types of expression, preventing the media from reporting fairly on matters of public concern and citizens from debating such matters.

This archaic law is routinely used to arrest and jail journalists, leading to self-censorship and a stifling of public debate on critical issues.

“The harassment of journalists with criminal prosecutions and hefty fines has led to widespread self-censorship and threatened independent journalism in all regions of Somalia. This situation has seriously hampered the ability of citizens to freely express themselves” added Bellanger. “Somalia needs new and progressive legal tools to safeguard media freedom”.

The IFJ has urged Somali journalists and media organisations to observe journalistic ethics and standards in discharging their professional responsibilities.

“Somali journalists are working in dreadful working conditions and they are not remunerated properly which is undermining quality journalism and their public service duty. As the legal system of the country improves, labour rights of journalists must be strengthened which will reinforce their ability to promote and sustain ethical journalism,” stressed Bellanger.

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