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“No One Can Harm Our Free Press, Its Independence Is Guaranteed In The Constitution”
Hargeysa, 10 November, 2007 (SL Times) – The speaker of Somaliland’s lower house of parliament, Abdirahman M Abdillahi (Iro), confirmed yesterday that the government had submitted to parliament, this week, the recent government revised ‘Press Law’ sanctioned by its council of ministers early in the year.
In a television interview, the speaker was asked by SLTV, “was it true that parliament received from the government its revised version of the current press law?”
“Yes, I can confirm that the said ‘Press Law’ has been handed to the house registrar, although I have not had the opportunity to study this draft [press law], and I have transferred it to the appropriate house select-committee responsible for media matters to review, prepare and present it and their recommendations for the house debate”, said Iro.
In reply to the question, “how do you see this new press law that the government wants to put in place of the current one?’ The lower house speaker said, “I cannot answer this, because, I have not read this new law. I can say at least that we will make sure that this new press law complements the old law and must be in agreement with and reflect the current law and its core articles.”
“We will be very cautious in establishing whether this new press law contradicts or fits the press law in use in the country at present”, the speaker added.
Asked to comment on recent press reports that the government’s new ‘press law’ seriously undermines the present ‘independence’ enjoined by the local media and the tradition of Somaliland having one of Africa’s most liberal media laws and a free press environment?
The speaker explained that “our constitution gives the media and freedom of speech the highest of priorities and places a special distinction over all other articles. I, therefore, believe that it’s not possible to harm or take away from our media its independence or undermine the free-press tenants enshrined in the constitution.”
Meanwhile, SL Times has seen the government’s new ‘Press Law’ which is currently being reviewed in parliament.
The government’s new press law is made up of 28 pages, divided in five major segments/parts and is composed of nineteen chapters containing a total of 120 articles, each article having many clauses and sub-clauses.
To give a brief account of just some of the sweeping changes which the government has drafted in this new press law:
4th Segment Subtitled-Law to publishers, printers, etc, etc…
Part 1 [printers]
Article 85: The owner and manager of the printing firm will be solely responsible for printing such material as deemed in this law as ‘non permissible’. [pg21]
5th Segment Subtitled-Non-permissible propagation
Part 1 [Non-permissible types of propagation]
Clause d: ”Any thing which propagates ideas/perception which are or leaning towards being anti-state and national policies, tarnishes national unity or derails beliefs and perceptions of the country’s citizens.”[pg24]
Clause e: “Anything which taints/puts down the morale of the nation and its wellbeing or is intentionally insulting to a person’s character and honour. [pg24]
5th Segment Subtitled-Non-permissible propagation and type of penal/felony classification
Part 2 [Penal type/classification]
Article 99: Anyone found in breach of this law [press law] is liable to a fine of not more than 20million Sl/sh ($3,333 USD) or a prison sentence not more than two years. [pg 25]
Article 102: A Media company/publisher’s operations can be temporarily suspended and shutdown by the minister of information or his deputy by ministerial order for closure of the publisher’s operations, if the publisher is found to have propagated material contravening this press law can be taken to court in order to have the publisher suspend operations or assets liquidated by the ministry of information. The publisher has the right to appeal to a court of law against such suspension. [pg 25]
Source: Somaliland Times