Somaliland: New Press law: A new war on Media to undermine Freedom of Press

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Press Release

Image Describing New Press-law

28/10/2013

Somalilandsun – Members of the Somaliland independent media operators and journalist organization have yesterday 28/10/2013 in a meeting called to discuss and evaluate the proposed drafting controversial Press Law which is seen to be made up of draconian measures which aims to silence the free media and is expected to be tabled in parliament soon.

The new Press law consists of 7 Key point and 45 sub sections which we believe shall infringe on citizen rights of freedom of expression and press freedoms as enshrined in the constitution and is seen as a means of regulating access to public information and free speech and lastly the new ‘Press Law’ contains desperate measures by the government to get rid of the independent media, in particular, the independent and privately owned newspapers in circulation.

Somaliland independent Journalists and those of the independent media outlets of Somaliland agree that the government’s new ‘press law’ is devised to silence the independent media and intended to annihilate the independence of the free media and do away with the opportunities and articles enshrined in the constitution which gives the citizens of this country the rights to express their opinions and freewill.

• This new ‘press law’ without doubt contravenes ‘article 32’ of the constitution which explicitly describes the sanctity of the freedom of the independent media and the citizen’s rights to freedom of expression. As result, this new ‘press law’ is in blatant breach of ‘article 32’ of the constitution.

• The new ‘press law’ was devised and intended solely for the privately owned independent print media and their commercial printers. The new ‘press law’ gives the government the power and authority to shutdown the privately owned independent newspapers and the business operations of the commercial printers who provide them [newspapers] printing services. It is evident that these articles specifically relate to the independent media and not to the government-run, opposition, and NGO media.

• The new ‘press law’ does not mention in any place or make reference to the current functioning Somaliland press law which for years has been the sole legal source for the country’s governing media laws which was endorsed by parliament and the president.

• This new ‘press law’ establishes that the minister of information has the authority and power to temporarily suspend, shut down, confiscate and appropriate the assets of the independent newspapers and the printing facilities and operations of their commercial printers. Moreover, this new ‘press law’ gives the minister of information the power to intervene in a newspaper’s financial operations, internal management and control output material of its production/operations [censorship]. For instance, the new ‘press law’ dictates that paper boys/girls cannot sell newspapers without a valid permit issued from the ministry of information and only then, can they, sell newspapers to the general public. Elsewhere, the new ‘press law’ goes on to state that newspaper reader’s opinion and ‘letters to the editor’ cannot be published without the prior consent and acknowledgement of the ministry of information [censorship]. The same goes for newspaper advertisements; in that the ministry must be informed of all advertisements placed with newspapers and cannot be published without its consent.

• The new ‘press law’ delegates authority to the ministry of finance to control, investigate and closedown the business operations of the independent newspapers.

• The new ‘press law’ categorically prohibits independent newspapers from receiving private funds, public contributions and NGO fund-grants from inside and outside the country. It even goes to the extent of forbidding newspapers from receiving public contributions to pay off legal court fines. This goes against the constitutional article which declares that ‘the independent media should have access to funds and resources that enables it to acquire necessary measures and competence in generating income.

• The new ‘press law’ declares that journalists working for local and international news agencies cannot travel to another region in the country to cover a story without applying for a travel permit from the minister of information, and that the minister has the right to withhold such permit requested by local or foreign journalists in the country.

• The new ‘press law’ states that all journalists, local and international, must have a registration card ‘journalist permit’ issued by the ministry of information to work in Somaliland as a journalist, and that the ministry has the right to cancel the permit without giving any reason/advance notice to local or foreign journalists working in the country.

• The new ‘press law’ violates the country’s established ‘judicial statutory laws of the land’ and has classified the legal code of law and rules governing the media as under the provisions of the criminal “penal” courts of the country. This is in blatant disregard to the current press law which stipulates that the media is answerable for its actions in the civil law suit courts of the country.

• The new ‘press law’ dictates that commercial printers who print newspapers for the independent media will be held responsible for the content material published by newspapers which contravene the articles in this press law. This is intended to scare commercial printers from printing independent newspapers.

• The new ‘press law’, furthermore, prohibits the media from publishing general public social and economic hardships or issues, like inflation, corruption, unemployment, bad governance, injustice, oppression, usurpation of government office for private interests.

Recommendations

1. We therefore urge members of the independent media to present a unity front in opposing the new Press law which 95% percent is meant to control and curtail the press and freedom of speech rights by the current government.

2. We also urge law makers to refrain from approving the draconian law which goes against the constitution of Somaliland and international law.

3. We urge H.E President Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud Silanyo he should not support neither approve this law which does not serve the interest of a majority of those you rule because these will be a prelude to dictatorship.

4. We appeal to the official opposition parties to block the new Press Law as it also infringes on their rights.

5. Lastly we appeal to fellow citizens, civil societies and international community to stand in Solidarity with members of the independent media in this critical time.

Somaliland Independent Media Fraternity

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