Statement on the Amended Media Law Signed by the President of Somalia
The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) takes note of the signing into law of the Amendment of Media Law following the approval of the final amended version from the both Houses of the Federal Parliament by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo.
Some of the provisions of the Law on Amendment of Media Law will go a long way in giving effect to Article 18 of the Federal Provisional Constitution of Somalia which provides for freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and media freedom by repealing the draconian and widely discredited 2016 Media Law that infringed on the country’s constitutional rights.
Particularly, the government’s stated interest of establishing Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is a giant step forward as PSB will give prominence to issues of editorial independence and public accountability – the two main principles that would distinguish PSB from a government/state or commercial broadcasting.
Of course, though, among other contentious issues is the fact that the new law falls far short of expectations of the media industry. NUSOJ responded positively to invitations from the government and the parliament to make an input into the content of the new Amendment of Media Law that has now replaced 2016 Media Law. Regrettably, most of the key proposals or recommendations submitted to the government and the parliament were not incorporated into the new law.
It’s no secret that NUSOJ has previously and repeatedly raised concerns that the draft amendment of Media Law failed to comply with the international standards on freedom of expression. The final version of the Law is no different. Some of the key concerns were the provisions that criminalise expression and the journalism profession, restrictions on who can practice journalism profession, dictated ethical guidelines, the independence & composition of the Somali Media Council, determined judicial prosecution of vague media crimes, issuance of press cards and undetermined fines for journalists and news media organisations.
“We have constantly urged the federal government, including the President of the Republic, to align the amended media law with African and international instruments and principles on freedom of expression that Somalia is a signatory to, so that the country acquires progressive and democratic laws benefitting all Somalis. Our demand for real media and policy reform, remains alive,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
In line with the Constitution and democratic practices, NUSOJ urges the government to expeditiously set up a true PSB which must be independent from any interests, notably political and economic; be accessible to all citizens; provide programming that caters for diverse tastes and interests; and serve the public interest especially at this critical time that the country is about to go to elections to ensure a fair and equitable coverage of the contesting parties/candidates.
Furthermore, NUSOJ calls upon the Federal Government to genuinely spearhead the establishment of Somali Media Council (SMC) in a process that is transparent and inclusive in order to safeguard its independence, representativeness and credibility, and to allay serious concerns expressed over this legislation.
In line with his statement on 3 May 2020, NUSOJ appeals to President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo to declare a moratorium on the arrest and imprisonment of journalists due to their journalistic work until the Penal Code of Somalia is progressively reformed.