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NUSOJ demands a stop to use of Repressive Media Law
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
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MOGADISHU, Somalia, May 30, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) is deeply disturbed by the attempts of officials at the Ministry ofInformation, Posts and Telecommunications of the Transitional Federal Government to use December 2007 restrictive Media Law against the media.
On May 22, 2012, the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunications issued public statement in claimed that some FM radio owners in the capital, Mogadishu, were “engaging in libeling campaign against government officials as well as creating hysteria over the peace process with an intention to spoil the Roadmap agreement and incite violence.”
In this statement, the Ministry cited the 8 December 2007 Media Law claiming the provisions of that law “laid out clearly the consequences of libeling, including defamations, which prohibit broadcasting lies and slandering.” This law had been rejected and roundly condemned.
NUSOJ strongly rejects the claims made against the private media houses, particularly radio stations in Mogadishu who were accused of “creating hysteria over the peace process with an intention to spoil the Roadmap agreement and incite violence”.
“The statement by the Ministry of Information is very dangerous and is obviously a move to legitimize calculated actions to suppress private media houses,” said Omar Faruk Osman. “We see it as a plot to create an atmosphere of confrontation and hostility between the media in Mogadishu and the stakeholders of the peace process and the roadmap”.
Added Osman: “The Media is the driving force in reaching out to the people of Somalia in different regions about the peace process and the implementations of the roadmap, and it is a disservice to accuse the media of undermining the peace process when a government official is criticized through media reports”.
NUSOJ said Ministry’s statement of 22 May 2012 was in bad faith and not in the national interest but issued under the guise of the peace process and to exploit popular position taken by the United Nations, African Union, and Intergovernmental Authority on Development against spoilers that stand against peace and progress in Somalia.
“We have not seen any indication on the part of any section of the media including the targeted radio stations to undermine the peace process and jeopardize the implementation of the roadmap. Therefore the move by the Ministry to use that draconian law to gag the media is uncalled for and unacceptable” said Abdirisak Omar Ismail, President of the Supreme Council of NUSOJ.
The December 2007 Media Law reveals serious shortcomings, contradictions and ambiguities. The provisions of Articles 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16 and 17 of the media law betray a cold determination by the Government to control the media in a manner that is against International Standards of Freedom of Expression.
NUSOJ said the law could not be “justified in a society that is expected to transition to stability and democracy, and will certainly not facilitate the growth of a stable, progressive, democratic and open society of Somalia”.
“Implicit in the said articles of 2007 Media Law is an assumption that the media are prone to cause harm to society unless the Government instills discipline and responsibility among the media owners and practitioners” added Osman. “We demand a stop the application of this draconian law against the media” declared Osman.
NUSOJ in conjunction with partner organizations made efforts to review the December 2007 media. There were consultations help in Mogadishu and Garowe. ARTICLE 19 worked with NUSOJ to produce draft media bill, and it was not possible to put to Parliament to review.
Surprisingly, while this draconian media law is officially in the books, the Ministry initiated another process of drafting Somali Communications Act of 2012 with the aid of a company called Albany Associates.
While ignoring to review draconian media law of 2007, the process of drafting of this “Communications Act” was conducted with broader and extensive consultations with the concerned stakeholders while the process was not transparent and the opportunity for concerned stakeholders to comment and input the draft text extremely limited from Somali stakeholders, in attempt perceived to evade criticism. For instance, Somalia’s more than 50 broadcast media institutions were not consulted, although the proposed Act concerns them directly.
“When draconian media law is already in the book, what is the motive to enact another law concerning media? This is the question that media fraternity is asking today,” said Osman.
“It is very deplorable that a law has to be drafted for Somalia for the sake of drafting and as a means to exhaust project funds. This raises the question of the legitimacy of the process and validates our criticism that the process is not Somali owned and driven and is meant to undermine mushrooming private broadcast media sector,” stated Osman.
NUSOJ welcomes the constructive attention of the President of Transitional Federation Government Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to concerns, criticism and questions of the legitimacy of this draft Communications Act process.
“We call on the President of the Transitional Federal Government to send back this Communications Act to be discussed by journalists, media owners, civil society, telecommunications companies, and parliamentarians, not only in Mogadishu but all the regions of the country,” stated Ismail.
NUSOJ is of the view that the Draft Communications Law making process was only comparable to the manner in which laws were made during Soviet Era, which lacked legitimacy, ownership and drafted reticently, and above all was not inline with International Standards of Freedom of Expression.
The union reiterated its concerns that this Communications Act may be used to undermine growing private broadcast media and will be used a tool to subdue free flow of information and freedom of expression.
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