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Somalia11 October 2006

Islamic courts try to impose draconian rules on Mogadishu media

A list of 13 rules of conduct for the privately-owned media which the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) gave to journalists in Mogadishu on 8 October was condemned as completely unacceptable by Reporters Without Borders today.

“The result of this draconian charter which Mogadishu’s new masters want to impose on Somalia’s journalists would be a gagged, obedient press, one constrained by threats to sing the praises of the Islamic courts and their vision of the world and Somalia,” the press freedom organisation said.

“We are not defending any foreign or anti-Islamic interests when we support Somalia’s journalists against this attempt to control them,” Reporters Without Borders added. “We are just speaking on behalf of a profession that refuses to exchange chaos for servitude. If, as they claim, the Islamic courts want to restore peace and justice to Somalia, they must abandon this plan.”

The rules of conduct with which the press is now supposed to comply were presented when representatives of the privately-owned media were summoned on 8 October by the head of the UIC’s judicial administration, Sheikh Hassan Osman, and the deputy director of its bureau for information and propaganda (“Da’wah”), Sheikh Abdullahi Hussein Barre, to the movement’s Mogadishu headquarters.

The 13 rules are:
1. The media must not publish or disseminate information contrary to the Muslim religion, the public interest or the interest of the nation.
2. The media must not disseminate information likely to create conflicts between the population and the Council of Islamic Courts.
3. The media may reproduce information obtained from credible sources, but must reveal the identity of the sources.
4. The media must cooperate with the information bureau of the Council of Islamic Courts.
5. Media directors are responsible for the news and programmes they disseminate.
6. Each media must have a physical address and contact details.
7. The media must not serve foreign interests.
8. Media employees must have good professional training and must respect professional ethics and conduct.
9. The media must not participate in seminars or programmes supported by foreign organisations without express permission from the information bureau of the Council of Islamic Courts.
10. The media must not publish or disseminate elements of a foreign culture contrary to Islamic culture or promoting bad behaviour, such as nudity on film.
11. A media cannot work in areas controlled by the Islamic courts without previously registering with the information and propaganda bureau of the Islamic courts.
12. If media are guilty of misconduct, they must make amends.
13. The media must not employ the terms which infidels use to refer to Muslims such as ‘terrorists,’ ‘extremists’ etc.

The Reporters Without Borders partner organisation, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), said the journalists who attended the meeting expressed their disagreement with the rules of conduct. Another meeting has been set for 15 October for further discussion.

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