IPI BLOG: Somali journalists take stand against draft press law
Association ‘very annoyed’ at government efforts to force reporters to reveal their sources
By: Alison Bethel McKenzie, IPI Executive Director
While the murder of journalists in Somalia continues unabated and a press law requiring journalists to reveal their sources and forbidding them from publishing anything deemed against Islam or Somali traditions is being considered by lawmakers, journalists in the East African country that borders Ethiopia and Kenya are proving resilient – if not cautious. Somali journalists signed a petition on August 21 against the law and continue to urge the Minister of Information to bring it into line with international standards.
The International Press Institute spoke via email this week with the sometimes-contentious Omar Faruk Osman, secretary-general of the Eastern African Journalists Association (EAJA), on honest consultations, solidarity and impunity.
IPI: What is the mood among journalists in Somalia considering that the country has the distinction of being the second most deadly place for journalists in the world?
OFO: Journalists are very annoyed. The Ministry of Information did not consult with the media and secretively prepared this draft repressive media law by using individuals to cover up their intention to suppress the media rights. The independent media formed an independent media task force. Journalists are upset that instead of the government focusing on the ending of the murderous crimes against journalists and impunity, they had to come up with a draconian media law. However, the media community is relieved by the action taken by the Prime Minister of Somalia to put it on hold until it is revised.
IPI: What would you like to see happen with the new law, specifically? I mean, would you like for Parliament to reject it and for there to be no such law?
OFO: We want the concerns of the media fraternity clearly taken in. We need the ministry to make honest consultations, and for the ministry of information to stop inclusion of non-Somalis and end exclusion of Somali media from taking part in the consultations.
IPI: I am sure that the seven journalists who have been killed so far this year did not go into the business believing that their profession would lead to their demise. What are journalists doing to protect themselves?
OFO: It is not seven. It is five journalists + 1 media worker, in total 6 media workers. Journalists are committed to protect themselves and be careful with anything that can harm them. They extend solidarity to each other. Journalists are putting pressure on the government to make sure that crimes against journalists do not go overlooked.
(Editor’s Note: IPI reports seven journalists killed in Somalia since the beginning of the year. Go to freemedia.at for more information. Other press freedom organisations report between 7 and 8.)
IPI: What can the international community do to help?
OFO: We need the international community to demand the Ministry of Information to respect and protect freedom of expression, stop undermining the independent voices of the media and respect the constitution of Somalia as far as freedom of expression is concerned. This includes desisting [from] discreet attempts to belittle the independent media by the Minister of Information and his officials.