NUSOJ protests sudden approval of Puntland Media Law as a “blow to press freedom”

By National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)

MOGADISHU, Somalia, July 22, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) protests the sudden approval of Puntland Media law by Puntland parliament, and criticized the proposed legislation as a “blow to press freedom”.

Puntland Parliament passed today the draft media law, which was resubmitted to the parliament on Saturday, 19 July 2014 after the parliament returned the same text to the Ministry of Information on 16 July.

This media law specifies penalties, fines, and suspension of journalists from work. It legalizes closure of media houses and restrains editorial independence of media outlets. The draft law gives the ministry of information the power to withhold or revoke media house registration unilaterally. The Ministry will have the authority to issue and withdraw journalists' identification card, according to this law.

Puntland journalists have today spoken out against the swift decision of the parliament to approve the draft media law that still has several suppressive provisions. Earlier journalists addressed the parliament and challenged the submission of the Minister of Information, which resulted the parliament to send it back to the ministry.

"Press freedom and journalists' rights in Puntland will be swept away by this media law. The fact that the legislation has been rushed through, without proper consultation and in the face of opposition from the media community, suggests a concerted political attack on press freedom” said NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman.

NUSOJ is supporting angry journalists who are protesting over sudden approval of the media law. Journalists are rightly worried that politicians are less concerned about the future of media freedom than the need of some politicians who want to consolidate their own influence over how the media operates.

“Approving this media law without adequate consultation is not democratic; it is the hallmark of autocratic politics. We urge Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali not to sign it into law and heed journalists' call to send it back for review to bring the legislation in line with internationally recognized norms of press freedom” added Osman.