Press Release .
Mogadishu – The Federation of Somali Journalists welcomed the passage of the Somalia Media Bill by the Federal Parliament of Somalia on Monday, 8 July 2019 and called the endorsement “a landmark achievement for the Somali media but requests the Upper House of the Somali parliament to review the remaining punitive provisions in the amended media law which are still not in line with international standards.
Up to 16 clauses out of 41 provisions in the media law were either amended or removed in the bill, particularly the harsh clauses which media groups were complaining about so much over the past several years.
Here are some of the provisions in the media law in which amendments have been made
Clause 5 of the previous media law stated that, unless the violation led to a criminal offence, for anyone who violated this law, whether a journalist or an official from a media outlet, the following would be applied:
- A formal warning would be issued to the official of the media outlet or journalist;
b. A monetary fine of the Somali shillings equivalent of between US $500
to US $3,000 (five hundred to three thousand dollars) would be imposed on the editor, journalist or other official from the media outlet who violated this law or the media code of ethics, except in criminal cases which are handed over to relevant authorities.
Under the new amended media bill, there is no specific penalty fee set out in the law despite it saying: “Financial penalties shall be set out in a special code of conduct that will be filed against the journalist, editor or editor of the media center that violates this law or the ethics of the media”.
After much pressure and advocacy from local media groups a proposal from the Ministry of Information was rejected. This was the clause which said the nine-members of the Somalia Media Committee (SMC) would be drawn from the Ministries of Information of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the Member States. This would make it a non-independent committee directly under the Ministry of Information.
Under the amended media bill, it states that the commission shall have 9 (Nine) members. The commission members shall come from:
- Private media: 3 members
- Government media: 3 members
- Civil society organizations: 3 members, representing the Human Rights Commission, women’s groups and the Somali Lawyers Association.
FESOJ suggests that all elements of the commission should elect their representatives independently. If the government picks them, the independence of the commission would not be guaranteed.
The amended media law still contains some articles that need to be fully modified. These are:
The interpretation of who is a journalist has been provided under two contradictory articles (1 and 34):
• Article 1- A journalist is any person who has the knowledge of journalism, engages in the practice of journalism and is authorized to operate as such.
Article 34.1- Journalists can be everybody who has a Journalism provision and has served in the media industry for a period of two (2) years as stated in Article 18 of this law.
Under international law, the freedom to seek and impart information and ideas can never be conditioned on a certain period of time or membership of a professional association.
25.2- The Ministry of Information and the Media Commission in consultation with journalists’ 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.
FESOJ believes that The Media Code of Conduct should not be part of the media law and The Government/ Ministry of Information should not have a role in establishing the journalists’ code of conduct. Likewise ‘sound Somali culture’ cannot be easily defined and thus can be problematic in terms of interpretation.
“Reviewing the Somali media bill has been one of the media fraternity’s main priorities since the current government took office in February 2017.We welcome the approval of the amendments of media law by the Federal parliament of Somalia which is a milestone achievement for the Somalia media and journalists.” Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, FESOJ Secretary General said, “The amended bill protects the media workers from unwarranted arrests and guarantees freedom of media.”
Representatives from FESOJ and other Somali media fraternities and journalism bodies have been widely consulted throughout the process and have repeatedly submitted their concerns to the Parliamentary Media and Telecommunication Subcommittee. Although they were all given consideration, the media law needs further amendments.
“It is vital for our media and journalists to have press regulations in order for us to challenge the punitive criminal code, which criminalizes the work of the journalists.” Mr. Moalimuu added.
FESOJ called for the Federal government of Somalia to properly implement the press law after necessary improvements are made by the Upper House of the parliament and still amend the provisions in the law which are against international standards.
The Chairman of FESOJ Abadir Abdulkadir Elmi said “We acknowledge with great appreciation the opportunity given to members of Somali media fraternities to contribute and support this process and we particularly thank the Parliament committee of Media and Telecommunications for its cooperation.”
N.B : FESOJ has so far the original Somali version of the copy of amended media and will share with you when officially translated into English.