Today marks a new chapter in the Somali space with the signing of the amended Somali Media Law. We are glad to finally have a law that ensures the freedom, operation and practice of Journalism in our Republic. This is a victory for media freedom, independence of media institutions and more so a law that will protect our journalists from injustices and harassment as they practice their job.
Our journalists have faced various challenges in their line of duty and we have within us those who have survived and others who have experienced justice.
We are glad to have this legislation that provides guidance and solution to address media grievances and fill the void created by lack of a guiding jurisdiction. We are aware there are a few clauses that have raised concerns here today, but with continued consultations we shall have them addressed in the near future.
This law is the fruit of rigorous efforts with the climax being H.E President Farmaajo’s meeting with media stakeholders to address the needs and concerns of Somali journalists and to sign a document that captures his vision for a free press. This has seen the omission of eleven clauses from the initial draft which were indeed barriers that might infringe on press freedom.
This law is also timely and problem solving since it comes at a time our nation is entering a historic phase. The media law will ensure that as we enter the electioneering period, all candidates and contestants of various seats receive fair coverage in the public print, television and broadcasting agencies such as SONNA, SNTV and Radio Mogadishu.
The amended Media Law also avails a dispute mechanism led by media stakeholders so that all media related malpractices or accusations are handled by the Press Council unlike the past where media professionals were dragged to the courts. Under this provision, the media will have its own solutions including, in cases of defamation or wrongful reporting, the relevant media house will offer an apology or retraction. Any further action shall be undertaken thereafter through the recommendations of that body.
The Media Law also offers members of the fourth estate protection against masters of impunity and allows them the ability to hold our public officers accountable especially on issues related to abuse of office. No intimidation whatsoever will be tolerated as far as rightful coverage of matters of public interest is concerned.
As we all know, we have witnessed that, due to lack of media regulation, we have encountered instances in the past where the security and sovereignty of our nation was threatened by biased coverage and this includes the coverage of Martime Dispute involving Somalia and Kenya.
We will also have accessible government information in our newly established Government Communication Center (GCC) to feed the press with critical and relevant information concerning the government institutions.
Finally, this law also brings hope to our journalists based in various Federal Member States. The past instances of media harassment and intimidation will be bygones because this law applies to all.
It is our belief that we will have a reformed media landscape which offers our media professionals and institutions unhindered space to operate from with unlimited respect and tolerance to standards of press freedom.
I thank you.