Somali draft media law may curtail press freedom

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The Somali government has published a draft media law, but which the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) says is not in conformity with international human rights standards.

OHCHR has also criticized the Somali government for going against its earlier pledge to hold broad consultations before the media bill was published.

Rupert Colville from the UN Human Rights Office says the draft legislation contains vague language and places requirements on journalists that could easily be used to curtail freedom of expression.

"For instance requiring media not to contravene or disseminate information that is against Islam, or Somali traditions or traditional ethics. The draft also requires journalists to reveal their sources if published information stirs up public sentiments and provides for the suspension of journalists and other representatives of media organizations accused of violating the media legislation — a provision which itself violates the presumption of innocence. We are also concerned about the composition of the proposed regulatory body, the National Media Council, and the selection process for its members, neither of which guarantees its independence." 

He says the draft bill could be enacted into law within the next two months which leaves insufficient time for wide ranging consultations to take place and for necessary improvements identified during that process to be included in the draft legislation.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

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