MOGADISHU, Somalia-Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) and the Somali Media Association (SOMA) on Thursday joined journalists, editors, media directors and civil society representatives to protest against the amended draconian media law, which has been introduced this week, following the signature of the Somali President.
During the protest event held in Mogadishu on 27 August, 2020, journalists and media directors expressed grave concern by the very egregious provisions in the law. Several editors and journalists have also said that they feared for their safety since Wednesday, after the President’s Director of Communication made a threatening speech against media houses and the journalists deemed critical to the President. Members of the civil society also noted the serious threats the media law poses to the freedom of the media.
Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary General of SJS, who gave detailed explanation on the most critical articles within the media law, warned that safety and privacy of journalists will be at stake if the law continues to take effect.
“Ahead of the national elections, this law is meant to create a chilling effect on freedom of the press and that of the media in Somalia. This law does not only impose censorship and threatens critical reporting, but it also forces journalists to be registered into a government database, which is unacceptable,” Mr. Mumin, SJS Secretary General said “Further threats are now coming from the office of the President against certain journalists and their media houses as it has been reported by several news editors and journalists. We warn those who are making these threats.”
Mohamed Abduwahab Abdullahi, the Secretary General of Somali Media Association (SOMA) highlighted the need for immediate campaign to safeguard the endangered media and their journalists.
“Our already endangered media houses are once again threatened with a media law which criminalises free flow of information and critical reporting. This law justifies restrictions on media coverage under pretext of vaguely worded provisions,” SOMA Secretary General, Mr. Abdullahi said “We are also concerned by the new threats targeting certain media and their journalists and we want to call for an immediate intervention to deal imminent threats posed by the Director of Communications of Villa Somalia, following his speech at the launch of the media law.”
Hanad Ali Guled, the editor of Googjoog Media Group said he was personally affected by the media law as he feared for his safety and that of his news sources. The law forces journalists reveal their sources.
“This morning I reported to work fearing that I am not safe and so my news sources. It is like I’m being held between a rock and a hard place- faced with two equally undesirable threats- one posed by this law and another by the environment,” Mr. Guled said.
Abdiqani Abdullahi Ibrahim, an online news editor with Kulmiye News Network (KNN) said the urgent introduction of the media law on Wednesday shows how the authorities were committed to suppress independent media ahead of the general elections.
“It is like that no journalist or media house will be able to report fairly about elections, because several provisions of this law contain media censorship including the online media. We are at the greatest ever risk,” Mr. Ibrahim of KNN said.
Diini Mohamed, the former chairman of the Somalia Non State Actors (SONSA) has described the media law a very ‘wicked and a threat’ that need to be stopped.
“The civil society is very concerned by this Media Law. I got a copy of this law and I have read it. It is wicked, it is a threat and unacceptable. I am surprised that this law forces journalists to reveal their news sources. This is very dangerous. It must be repealed,” Diini Mohamed, Ex-chairman of the Somalia Non State Actors (SONSA) said.
Mr Diini personally pledged to stand with journalists and media houses in defending their freedom.
“Media freedom is essential for democracy and above all safety of the journalists is the most important. I am extremely concerned that this media law requires journalists to register in a database run by the government. Why would they want to do this? I call for the journalists and their unions to stand together and oppose this law. We shall support you,” Mr. Diini added.
The amended version of the media law remains the same as the previous media law, which was signed into law in 2016, and the legal comments submitted by Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), Somali Media Association (SOMA) and other media associations were not incorporated, giving the government a pretext to crackdown critical media and journalists.
At the end of the event and the protest on Thursday, SJS and SOMA jointly called for an immediate review to be carried out with the incorporation of the input from the journalists, unions and media houses.