Journalists, media lawyers and organisations have expressed concern over the appointment of a media council in Somalia, saying that the government acted unlawfully because it failed to consult with key media organisations and role-players. 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents 600,000 media professionals in 187 unions and associations in more than 140 countries issued a statement condemning what they called the unlawful appointments saying that it undermines press freedom and disrespects the rule of law in the East African country. 

The law dictates that Somalia Media Council is meant to have nine members which include three members from public or state media, three from private media, and the remaining three from civil society, a statement indicates. It’s meant to be completely independent of the state, however, the IFJ and its affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) raised concerns over the appointment of a politician (a former senator) to the council. 

The organisations say this “blatantly compromises the council’s independence and credibility and exposing it to political influence.”

Read NUSOJ’s full statement here.

Furthermore, the country’s media law prescribes that the Council of Ministers should also consult with the Minister of Information, media organisations, NUSOJ and civil society, among others, but the NUSOJ says this did not happen either, and say the appointments are unlawful.

Media organisations, owners and lawyers have collectively called for the right procedures to be followed before the law is signed into presidential decree. The council was appointed in March. 

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger was scathing in his criticism. 

“Press freedom and pluralism are in danger in Somalia if the composition of the National Media Council is approved as it will expand the state control over the media. We back the demands of our affiliate NUSOJ and media organisations in the country to ensure that the amended 2020 media law is respected and press freedom is upheld,” he said. 

Read: Press freedom in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda: what journalists have to say about doing their jobs

According to Reporters Without Borders (RWB), Somalia remains the most dangerous country for Journalists in Africa because they operate work in a corrupt and violent environment. The country ranks 141 out of 180 on RFB’s press freedom index. 

Propaganda and disinformation thrive in some African regions, and according to the RWB it is still one of the most dangerous terrains for journalists. A total of five journalists were killed in connection with their work from September 2022 to January 2023 in Cameroon (138th), Kenya (116th), Somalia (141st) and Rwanda (131st), the RWB said. 

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