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Rights groups rebuke Farmaajo over ‘Shabaab link’ remark, nod on oppressive Media Law

Storyline:National News

President Mohamed Farmaajo has once again come under sharp criticism for his recent remarks linking journalists to extremism and signing into law a media law that has been roundly described as oppressive and an assault to media freedom in Somalia.

In a joint letter addressed to Farmaajo, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch said the President’s remarks late last month linking journalists to the militant group Al-Shabaab was ‘concerning’ and further put at risk the lives of journalists.

“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,” the three organisations said.

“Such comments,” the campaign groups said, “place Somali journalists, who already operate in a volatile context, at risk of reprisals and undermine the positive commitments made regarding media freedom.”

During a public forum last month, Farmaajo claimed without substantiating that some journalists were ‘working for Al-Shabaab’ adding they ‘lacked professional competence’.


The three organisations also took issue with the newly approved amended Media Law noting some sections ran counter to President Farmaajo’s pledged to end media oppression and that the law would unermine prospects of a free media in Somalia.

“The provisions on criminal penalties are vaguely worded and could give law enforcement authorities wide scope for misinterpretation and abuse,” the joint statement noted. The trio singled out articles 3, 4 and 26 which prohibit reporting on issues conflicting with national interest,  false information, incitement to violence and clannism,  and dissemination of propaganda.

“Such vaguely defined provisions,” the statement noted, ‘tend to have a chilling effect on journalists, pushing them to self-censor due to their fear of covering stories that could subject them to penalties.’

On the composition of the Media Council, the organisations said the oversight role of the minister of information jeopardised the independence of the council.

The pressure groups called on president Farmaajo to declare a moratorium on the further arrest of journalists and media workers, direct security agencies to cease oppression of journalists, and ensure public officials refrain from negative and intimidating statements.

The three organisations also urged the president to hastily ensure review of the media law and complete the review of the penal code to rid it of sections which offend press freedom.