His Excellency Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon emphasized today the government's “shakeable” commitment to press freedom and advised against a rush to judgement before the Media Law was sent to parliament.
“There has been a good deal of overexcited reporting about the Media Law in recent days, much of it ill-informed,” the Prime Minister said. “The suggestion that it was going to require journalists to be aged 40 or over, for example, owes more to fantasy fiction than accurate reporting. We need calm discussion and sensible consultations and this is how we are proceeding with a series of consultations with all interested stakeholders.”
The Prime Minister stressed that the Council of Ministers had only approved the Media Law subject to amendments being made by the Minister of Information Abdullahi Elmoge Hersi. Once those were incorporated the draft legislation would then be sent to parliament for further debate and consultation, giving additional scope for amendments.
The Prime Minister, together with the Minister of Information and his Deputy Minister Abdishakur Ali Mire, hosted an iftar dinner for Somali journalists on 18 July specifically so they could raise their issues and concerns regarding the draft Media Law.
Mohammed Ibrahim, Secretary-General of the National Union of Somali Journalists, thanked the Prime Minister for the opportunity to discuss these issues. He and a number of Somali journalists raised a number of issues, including protection of sources, the independence of the National Media Council, the Council’s powers, access to information and lifting the suspension of journalists if convicted.
“I am on record numerous times on the subject of defending press freedom and journalist's rights and my government's commitment to this is shakeable,” the Prime Minister said. “I would like to assure Somali journalists and the international community alike that there is plenty of time for further consultations on and amendments to the Media Law.
We are fully aware of concerns in this area and are determined to proceed on the basis of international best practice so that press freedom in Somalia is properly enshrined in law.”