The UN has criticized the recently passed Media Law noting the retention of sections of the amended law was tantamount to the oppression of media freedom in Somalia.
The UN Human Rights Council Independent Expert said some of the articles in the amended law violated freedom of expression and put the work of journalists under risk of state oppression. The Independent Expert said the introduction of licensing and fines was detrimental to further making the work of journalists tougher in a country that already ranks the worst for journalists to work in.
“The Independent Expert cautions against the use of administrative regulations, such as licensing and fines, to exert undue pressure on or to suspend or ban media outlets,” the Expert said in a report this week.
The UN official also took issue with the composition of the Media Council reinforcing earlier concerns by journalists in Somalia and media activist groups. The inclusion of the Minister of Information in the Medical Council who at the same time is tasked with recommending names to the council amounted to a conflict of interest.
“Moreover, the composition and appointment process of the Somali Media Council, whose responsibilities include mediating and resolving complaints, granting and revoking media licenses and presenting awards and taking disciplinary measures against journalists, editors and media outlets, does not guarantee independence and could promote self-censorship.”
In addition to being a member of the Somali Media Council, the Independent Expert said, “the Ministry of Information is also in charge of recommending the list of members of the Somali Media Council for approval by the Council of Ministers, giving the Government excessively broad discretionary powers and control over the media.”
Journalists and media watchdog groups have condemned the law and called for another round of appeal noting it will be used to further suppress journalists and curtail media freedom in Somalia.