Somalia’s information ministry yesterday met media stakeholders in the capital Mogadishu to discuss media trends in the country, with particular focus on media law reforms.
The consultative meeting follows the government’s decision through the Ministry of Information, Telecommunications and Posts to review and repeal problematic provisions in the Media Law 2007.
According to the information ministry, the media law, said to have been hastily passed by the former Transitional Federal Parliament in Baidoa on December 8, 2007, is not in line with provisional federal constitution of Somalia and falls short of international standards.
It in addition fails to safeguard freedom of expression and media freedom.
Organised by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the meeting pledged for “far-reaching review of the media law” to ensure it conforms with the Somalia’s provisional constitution and respects international standards on freedom of expression and information.
According to NUSOJ, the government has control over the media in the Media Law 2007 as it is mandated to determine rules for media operation and professional journalism standards.
According to legal experts, media freedoms and the right to freedom of expression can be restricted in violation of international law due to overbroad definitions, vaguely phrased articles and the creation of vaguely defined prohibitions and disproportionate punishment to journalists and media organisations in the Media Law 2007.
“We are pleased by the government’s initiative to open the media law for consultations to review it within first three months’ of its existence,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ’s secretary general, adding that previous cabinets of former Transitional Federal Government (TFG) failed to honour their promises to review the law that is in question.
The meeting further examined the proposed communication bill, which is claimed by the media stakeholders to be unnecessarily problematic.
“This bill does not repeal December 2007 media law, confuses media’s efforts to amend Media Law 2007 and does not stand for the needs and ownership of Somalis,” NUSOJ stated.
The stakeholders agreed “to start countrywide campaign to defend media freedom and journalists’ identity while opposing measures to muzzle the media”.
The decision comes as Somalia is troubled by the continual persecution of journalists under Somalia’s penal code.
NUSOJ called on the government “to end use of Somali Penal Code against journalists for practicing journalistic work” and “to establish special protection force for journalists by formally empowering it to investigate crimes against journalists and to make charges.”