The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) has condemned has it describes as a draconian law by the Somali Council of Ministers meant to restrict media operations and content.
The media law is among other things part of the process by the government to heavily clamp down on media freedom thereby denying the people of their democratic rights to a free and independent media.
AFEX is therefore calling on the Somali Parliament to reject it because “it sees the Bill as nothing but a calculated effort to protect Government and its appointees to perpetuate abuse of power and censor the Somali people”.
Below is the full statement
AFEX condemns endorsement of a draconian media law by the Somalia Council of Ministers; Calls on Somali Parliament to reject it
The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) is appalled by the endorsement, by the Somali Council of Ministers, of a repressive Media Bill on 1 September, 2014, severely restricting media operations and content. AFEX calls for the Somali Parliament to reject the Bill outright.
The provisions in the Bill and the processes leading to its endorsement all point to an attempt by the Somali Government to heavily clamp down on media freedom and freedom of expression, thereby denying the people of their democratic rights to a free and independent media.
After intense pressure from media groups, the draft media law submitted to the Somali Council of Ministers in June this year, was withdrawn to allow for input from media stakeholders. However, this Bill does not take into account the media stakeholders’ concerns and this is a betrayal of trust by the Government.
AFEX sees the Bill as nothing but a calculated effort to protect Government and its appointees to perpetuate abuse of power and censor the Somali people. The Bill establishes the National Media Council of 13 members: six appointed by Government; four from the independent media and three from civil society. It imposes a fine of between US$5,000 and US$10,000 on media houses breaching the proposed “code of ethics.” It also empowers the Ministry of Information and the National Media Council to set code of ethics for journalists.
Furthermore, the Bill stipulates that every media house must register at the Ministry of Information and pay an unspecified annual fee for a licence from the Ministry. It also allows the court to compel media houses to disclose confidential sources and name unidentified journalists. The Bill foresees “criminal offences” by journalists and media houses, which will be handled by the Attorney General and a competent court of law.
AFEX recalls the arbitrary arrests, torture and harassment of journalists and other free expression activists by armed security forces detailed by the Government and the lives of journalists being threatened by the Somali Government, all under the cover of the media “inciting the public and causing insecurity in the country.”
AFEX expresses utter dismay at these developments, given that the Somali people, civil society groups, freedom of expression groups and the international community were all in opposition to the law. By passing this Bill, Government proposes to use the court to perpetuate impunity, given that the judiciary in Somalia is weak and is also part and parcel of the executive branch.
The Bill is not in agreement with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 9 of the African Union Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which guarantee freedom of expression for every individual. Nor does it conform with the Declaration of Principles on Freedom and Expression and Access to Information of the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights.
At a time when the global community is making efforts to rebuild the Somali State, AFEX expects the Somali Government to guarantee freedom of expression as a way of ensuring democratic development and consolidation.
AFEX, therefore, calls on the Somali Parliament to reject the Bill. Furthermore, AFEX calls on the international community, all free expression groups, free expression activists and civil society groups all over the world to rise against the passage of this hostile Bill.
Story by Ghana/Myjoyonline.com
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