Somalia’s president signed into law a controversial media bill that aims to regulate the beleaguered media industry, after the government dismissed calls by journalists to review the bill, which they said was passed without seeking independent media’s input.
The 42-article new bill, earlier passed by the cabinet and parliament is seen as ‘restrictive’ which gives authorities wide-range of options to prosecute and arrest journalists for disseminating ‘false’ news,
and slap fines on journalists and media houses that infringe the bill, subjects journalists say were ‘vaguely worded’.
Signing the bill into law Sunday, Somalia’s president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said he has taken the decision considering clauses in the constitution and endorsement letters from the parliament’s speaker and the prime minster that highlighted the need for media law to safeguard the country’s ‘culture’ and the ‘reputation’ of the Somali people.
Mr. Mohamud hasn’t referred complaints by independent journalists who despite pointing out several articles singled out the article in the law which creates a watchdog that would regulate the media operating in the country; a scenario which they said aim to censor critical voices and issue gag orders on sensitive topics.
Journalists have also complained over lack of consultations by authors of the law, who they said were handpicked by the government. However, Somali government said that majority of the committee that drafted the bill were selected among the independent media.
Somalia is one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists as dozens of journalists have been killed in the past few years.
Despite government’s promises of prosecution of perpetrators for media workers killings, yet criminals walk freely without facing justice that provoked int’l calls demanding justice.
Human rights groups demand that Somali authorities and the international community take action to reestablish the rule of bill in Somalia, following the killing of many journalists in the country.
The country is emerging from decades of war that shattered its governmental system.
As usual, reporters in Somalia must watch for attacks from militants and criminals and know that such deaths have been met with judicial inaction in a capital city with crippled government institutions.
Most of the killings have taken place in areas of Mogadishu under the Somali government’s control. Despite government promises of prosecutions, no arrests have yet been made for any of the killings