Garowe, 20 September 2015: Like all governments, the Laws of Puntland solemnly proclaim their belief in freedom of expression, especially freedom of the press. The current Puntland administration amended the new Puntland media law to “legalize” the repression of freedom of speech and media freedoms. Puntland government reviewed the recently passed media law to give the government full authority on who can become a journalist as well as the power to suspend journalists and media firms at their whim.
Puntland media Stakeholders on 19-20 September 2015 met in Garowe, the administrative capital of Puntland for a 2-day consultative meeting on Puntland media law reforms organized by the Media Association of Puntland and supported by National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
The consultative meeting gathered participants inclusive of key stakeholders from parliamentarians, civil society groups, media professionals, lawyers with vast experience on law reforms, government officials led by the Minister of information and his deputies. In addition to that, the Puntland Human rights defender chairperson and the UN Assistance Mission in Puntland representatives were among the key note speakers at the opening of the occasion.
The consultative meeting called for “A depth review of the media law” to ensure it is in conformity with the Puntland constitution and respects international standards on freedom of expression and information. The Puntland media law, passed by the president of Puntland Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas on the 29th July 2014 of which the Puntland media professionals expressed concerns of the law not being in line with the constitution of Puntland and international standards, Earlier on the 27th October 2014 MAP appealed to the legislators at the 34th Puntland parliament session. MAP appeals to the Puntland Parliament to modify the media Law.
Speaking at the opening of the 2-day consultative meeting, Chairman of the Media Association of Puntland Faisal Khalif noted ‘’the controversial media law doesn’t preserve media freedom, protection of journalist and contradicts the international media rights standard’’. It is of a great opportunity and a historic event to have such a great composition of honored persons, MAP’s
“Freedom of opinion and expression are fundamental rights of every human being”, noted Mohamed Yussuf Puntland Human Rights Defender.
Omar Aboud head of UNSOM office in Puntland in his remarks pointed ‘’freedom of opinion and expression become internationally recognized and all people and their governments are called upon to defend, protect and respect it as the most precious and fundamental rights. As Muslims freedom of expression is in the core of our values’’
Puntland Information minister Mohamud Hassan So’ade defended the existence of the media and further noted that the government has no intentions to silence the media and freedom of expressions and welcomed the consultative discussions and pledged to support the outcomes.
On its advocacy efforts prior to this event, MAP submitted a letter to the attorney general requesting a legal opinion on the specific articles. The feedback through an official letter from the attorney general’s office advised a need of a review on some of the articles as they oppose press freedom.
The meeting facilitated by non-conflicted experts with long-term experience in laws and legal advisory examined the articles of concern and put them in perspective reflecting both local and international standards on media rights. The presentations opened up debates and discussions that were so important and persuaded the legislators for a need of a review.
100% of participants at the first media stakeholders meeting unanimously acknowledged the repressive elements in the revised Puntland media and recommended a 4-persion technical team to lead the law review in liaison with the Puntland Ministry of Information, Communication, Culture and Heritage, the Media Association of Puntland , and the Puntland parliamentary committee on media affairs.
At his closing remarks the ministry of information representive who officially closed the two-day consultative meeting applauded the outcome and thanked the participants for their efforts and initiatives.
The Media Association of Puntland thanks the entire members whom tirelessly have put their knowledge, time and experiences in this event and the outcome of this meeting and will collaborate with ministry of information for the next steps.
MAP vows to abide by the laws while protecting the media rights through policy reforms in Puntland and calls for support from all the media interest group to the completion of this process promptly.