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Somalia3 October 2002

Parliament approves new law threatening press freedom

Reporters Without Borders protested today against the adoption by the Somali parliament of a law which curbs the freedom of journalists to do their job and called for it not to be implemented.

"The authorities say the new law is to deal with the excesses of some media, but the measure threatens the entire press," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to the head of the Transitional National Government, Abdiqasim Salad Hassan.

"In a country in the process of wholesale reconstruction such as Somalia, the authorities must emphatically encourage the growth of a free, diverse and independent media instead of trying to clamp down on it," he said.

All of Somalia’s privately-owned media (about 20 newspapers, a dozen radio and TV stations and several Internet websites) began a strike on 2 October to protest against the new law, which was passed on 28 September. They said they would no longer report official press releases if the government did not give way.

The new law bans publication or broadcast of anything that goes against the "common interests" of the country, without defining what that is. Media who contravene the measure risk withdrawal of their operating licences. Information minister Abdulrahman Ibi said the new law aims to "reorganise and regulate" the media.

Press freedom is very limited in two of the country’s autonomous regions - Somaliland and Puntland - where local authorities control the broadcast media and the written press is obliged to censor itself for fear of reprisals.

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