AFEX Petition Somali’s President Over New Media Bill

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July 19, 2017

H.E. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

President of the Federal Republic of Somalia

Office of the President

Mogadishu, Somalia.
Your Excellency,

Petition

We the undersigned organizations that are members of the African Freedom of Expression

Exchange (AFEX), write to express deep concern about a new Media Bill that your Council of Ministers has recently endorsed.

On July 13, 2017, the Council of Ministers, at their first meeting held in Kismayo, adopted a media Bill with many repressive clauses which can seriously undermine the exercise of freedom of expression rights in Somalia.

The new Bill if passed into law will penalise journalists and restrict the fundamental right to freedom of expression as it contravenes the provisions of Somalia’s Provisional Constitution as well as regional and international frameworks to which Somalia is signatory.

Your Excellency, Article 5 of the proposed Bill imposes a fine of up $1500 or a jail term of at one year for failure to pay the imposed fine. The average monthly salary of a Somali journalist falls below $150 thereby making the proposed fine untenable and making journalists liable to judicial persecution, and this will definitely restrict critical journalism in the country.

Additionally, the media bill establishes a statutory media regulatory body – Somali Media Commission (SMC) whose members will be appointed by the government thus compromising the independence of the SMC. The Minister of Information is empowered under the new Bill to present nominations of all 9 members of the media commission to the Council of Ministers, and following the Council’s approval the President of the republic will appoint them by decree – another instance of overbearing government influence on the future SMC.

The Bill further empowers the Ministry of Information to have a role in setting the ethical standards for journalists, in registering and licensing all media houses including newspapers and websites. The Bill also narrowly defines a journalist as a person with journalism qualification or has at least two years’ experience in journalism.

AFEX Secretariat, Media Foundation for West Africa, P. O. Box LG730, Legon, Ghana. Tel: 233 302 24 24 70.

Email: info@africafex.org Website: www.africafex.org 2

Articles 18 of the endorsed Media Bill, also obligates anyone who wants to practice journalism to be registered with the Federal Ministry of Information or Regional Ministries of Information across the country in order to seek accreditation before practicing journalism. This could be used as a tool to intimidate and force journalists to practice self-censorship.

It is recognized in the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa that “the right to express oneself through the media by practising journalism shall not be subject to undue legal restrictions.”

Additionally, the three special mandates for the protection of freedom of expression rights – the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media and the Organisation of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression makes it clear that registration of journalists is illegitimate. It is thus prohibitive, under international law, for journalists or media professionals to be licensed or registered.

Somalia’s media landscape has been categorized as one of the most dangerous countries for the practice of journalism in the world and the adoption of this bill into law will worsen press freedom situation in Somalia.

We believe that the Bill, if enacted in the form that it was passed by Council of Ministers, would violate the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 18 of Somalia’s Provisional Constitution. The above mentioned clauses of the new Media Bill also contravene Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Clearly these sections of the proposed bill constitute a step backwards for Somalia’s successful transition to democracy.

We the undersigned organisations are therefore concerned that the passage of the media Bill into law will undermine the freedom of expression rights of the people of Somalia. We appeal to you, Mr President, to use the powers of your good office to among others:

 Ensure that the proposed Bill is not passed into law by Parliament.

 Use inclusive and participatory consultative approach to review the bill to ensure that the

concerns of journalists and stakeholders in the country are adequately addressed.

 Commit to ensuring the overall respect for freedom of expression rights

 Adopt policies and measure suitable for the practice of journalism in Somalia

We are confident that your office will take note of the concerns enumerated above and consider the above recommendations towards improving the freedom of expression and human rights environment both online and offline in Somalia.

Sincerely,

Signed,

AFEX Secretariat, Media Foundation for West Africa, P. O. Box LG730, Legon, Ghana. Tel: 233 302 24 24 70.

Email: info@africafex.org Website: www.africafex.org 3

Members of African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX)

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC);

Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS);

Center for Media Studies & Peacebuilding (CEMESP);

Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda (HRNJ-U);

Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI);

Institute for Media and Society (IMS);

International Press Center (IPC) ;

Journaliste en Danger (JED);

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA);

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA);

Media Rights Agenda (MRA);

National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ);

West African Journalists Association (WAJA)

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