- Stakeholders from the Somali press, government and civil society are negotiating changes to the 2007 media law, with an aim of reforming the so-called "repressive articles" and secure greater press freedom in the country.
Since this weekend, journalists, media owners, lawyers, government officials, members of civil society and parliamentarians have negotiated in a Mogadishu hotel on how to amend the media law passed in December 2007 by the transitional federal parliament.
The media law consultative meeting, which was organised by the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), was held to enable stakeholders to discuss in detail the law, which contains a series of repressive articles, in order to come up with recommendations and form a representative and independent media council.
"These repressive articles must be amended before we can sit down to talk about the composition of a Media Council," said NUSOJ coordinator Abdirashid Abdullahi Haydar, who spoke on behalf of the union. "When the government opened this law for drastic review and disbanded the council, we were asked by both the government and stakeholders to facilitate the process. As a member, we are proud to help the process move forward," he added.
The consultative meeting, which drew more than 45 participants, was officially opened by the director general of the Ministry of Information, Abdirisak Ali Yusuf, who spoke both on behalf of the Minister, reiterating the importance of the consultative process that NUSOJ is spearheading.
Mr Abdirisak said that the government was determined to "fully support" the initiative aimed at coming up with instruments to facilitate media freedom and growth in Somalia. He urged the participants to discuss the law without any reservations and guaranteed the government's honest participation.
MP Amina Omar Jama, the acting chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Arts, said she was disappointed over the worsening working conditions for Somali journalists. She reminded the participants that the law was above all.
"Today, the media law is before you. There is a window of opportunity. You have the chance to review it and give your proposals for amendments," she said.
After deliberations, the participants decided on 18 articles to be amended and agreed on the proposed amendments.
Earlier this year, in May, the then Minister of Information declared the media law open for review. On that occasion, the Media Council was disbanded after the media fraternity objected to its activities and composition saying it lacked credibility, confidence and independence.
Despite prolongued warfare and insecurity, Somalia has been able to maintain a vivid media scene, often using new technologies to reach out to readers and listerners, leaning back on a long written and narrative culture. Despite many attacks on the press by all armed parties, Somali media have proudly been defending viewpoints of every colour.
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