On behalf of Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Human Rights Watch, we write to you to share concerns regarding the amendment to the media law which you signed into law in August 2020.
Our organizations have documented severe restrictions on the media and the right to freedom of expression in Somalia for many years, and we have repeatedly called on the Somalia government to create a conducive legal environment forjournalists and media organizations to operate.
In the run-up to the national elections expected to take place in late 2020 or early 2021, the government’s commitment to free and independent reporting is especially important. Creating a conducive legal and security environment for the media requires important measures by your office and government, Excellency.
We acknowledge the steps that your government has taken so far to improve media freedom and respect the right to freedom of expression in the country, particularly your expressed commitment on May 3, 2020 to review the penal code
and to decriminalize journalism and, more recently, the attorney general’s decision to establish the office of a new prosecutor to deal with crimes against journalists.
We also acknowledge that, positively, the new media law explicitly provides for the rights to freedom of expression1 and media freedom, including journalists’ rights to security and access to information.2 It also prohibits censorship and forced reporting.3
We are however concerned by the comments you made in the media on September 26, Your Excellency, claiming that that the media is acting unprofessionally and linking some journalists to Al-Shabaab. Such comments place Somali journalists, who already operate in a volatile context, at risk of reprisals and undermine the positive commitments made regarding media freedom. In addition, the new media law also includes provisions that threaten human rights, including freedom of expression, and
could criminalize reporting and give the government overly broad powers and oversight over media organizations.