16 July 2017 (Somalia Focus) – The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and affiliate media organizations including Somali Media Association (SOMA), Media Association of Puntland (MAP), Somali Independent Media Houses (SIMHA), and Somali Women Journalists (SWJ) are dismayed about the endorsement of what was called a reviewed Somalia Media Bill by the Somali Cabinet on Thursday 13 July ,2017 in Kismayo.
Members from Somali media organizations hold a meeting subsequently on Friday and Saturday 14,15 July 2017 following the cabinet endorsement of Somalia media bill. They expressed their concern over Somali government’s failure to take into account most of their recommendations and requests proposed by the independent media organizations and Somali media partners including Somalia Media Support Group (SMSG).
Profoundly reading the reviewed clauses and by comparing it to the previous ones, the media watchdogs found out that there were no substantial amendments and changes made by the cabinet and literally this seems another abortive attempt of ruling out any achievement through the expected review which could have given full assurances of freedom of media and freedom of expression in the country.
“We’ll negotiate with the Media Committee in the Somali parliament and we will carry this battle to the next stage and lobby against any attempt to deny the media of this country to gain full freedom. We hope that parliamentarians will be wise enough to amend the media law properly before passing it, otherwise it shall be another lost opportunity” said Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu NUSOJ Secretary General.
“We, the independent media in general, aren’t against having a media law in our country but we are interested to have a media law that aligns with the international standard by providing legal framework that will contribute to the establishment of an enabling environment for the freedom of the press, freedom of expression and access to information as enshrined in the national constitution of Somalia.” said SOMA Secretary General, Ismael Sheikh Khalifa.
Independent Somali Media Organizations would like to thank the government of Somalia particularly the Ministry of Information on its attempt to review media law and for the minor amendments it did but we would like now to appeal to the Members of Parliament who have the ability to amend the clauses we still have the concerns and we politely request them to reconsider the requests and calls from Somali journalists and their media organizations.
The latest review gives an excessive power to the Ministry of Information a power that could lead to full control of the media freedom.
Below is a summary of key recommendations and changes from the media organizations to the reviewed Media Law:
Media output should not be required to reflect the ‘right information and ideology.
Consideration should be given to doing away with the distinction between journalists and other members of the media professionals.
Consideration should be given to doing away altogether with the obligations placed upon journalists. Instead, the law could include a provision appropriately tailored to the protection of confidential sources of information.
Publicly funded media should be transformed into true public service media, protected against political interference, operating in the public interest and accountable to the public rather than the government or Ministry of Information.
A comprehensive law on access to information should be adopted in line with international standards and better practice.
Finally, Somali Media Organizations believe the government can be a useful tool to media freedom by accepting these recommendations. It is now the parliament’s task to listen to us and save the freedom of the media and freedom of expression when the media law is brought before them for their approval.
We look forward to an international standard media law that frees the media and does not attempt to control them.
Here are some of the articles in the reviewed media law which we are still complaining about.
Clause 25.2 says- The Ministry of Information and the Media Commission in consultation with journalist’s organizations in the country shall set the regulations of the general code of ethics of journalism, which shall stipulate the following issues, among others:
A- Respect for the Islamic religion and sound Somali culture.
B- Accuracy and reliability of news reports and programs, and protection of confidential sources of information unless a court orders to be disclosed.
C- Avoid to disseminate or publish videos and photos that are against the sound conduct of the society.
First of all, as independent media organizations we want the journalist code of conduct is to be established by the journalist professionals in close consultation with the Somalia Media Commission and other media stakeholders therefore, Government or Ministry of Information should not have a role in establishing the journalists code of conduct.
The minister of Information has full power according to article 40.1 C .To take an urgent decisions related to security emanating from media outlets.
Article 35.1 explains who can become a journalist and says journalist is anyone who has journalist knowledge and has been in the journalism industry for about two years. Under international law, the freedom to seek and impart information and ideas can never be conditioned on a certain diploma or membership of a professional association
Article 36.1 tells – The journalist should not violate the rights of a person, organization, places of worship, Islamic religion, laws of the country and sound Somali culture, this clause is totally contrary to the article 48 on the interpretation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
We also see as unacceptable and direct limitation to media the below clauses in article 36 which say
36.7- If media outlet sees the need for the anonymity due to the security of the anonymous source and that of the nation, they can broadcast the information, without revealing the confidential source. They shall, however, keep the source and the information properly, to be disclosed when needed. The disclosure of the source and the information may be ordered by a court if there is a dispute.
36.8- If the information provided by the sources leads to an outcome that cannot be obtained from elsewhere, and a court has ordered for the disclosure of the source of information, the media shall disclose the source where they obtained from and related evidences when ordered so by the competent court, which shall decide on the method of meeting the source, whether secretly or otherwise