Practice and challenges of press freedom in Somalia and Africa

DSC01364The Somali Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (SOMESHA) joined and welcomes the new campaign aimed at decriminalizing defamation, insult, publication of false news and sedition laws in in Africa. The campaign is part of a continent-wide effort led by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It includes local, regional and global non-governmental organizations striving to have a free press in Africa.

“The Decriminalization of Expression Campaign aims to rid Africa of criminal defamation, insult, false news and sedition laws and we acknowledged that the Declaration of Table Mountain signed by a small number of African presidents, In Somalia context SOMESHA calls Somalia president H. E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud not to sign the “ Declaration of Table Mountain” due to the needs of local and international media reporting towards Somalia humanitarian issues. “Said Mr. Daud Abdi Daud of SOMESHA

SOMESHA office was received the campaign documents through MRS. Alison Meston who heads the campaigns department of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and signed by Mr. Daud Abdi Daud, SOMESHA Secretary General on November 15, 2014 at Nairobi, Kenya

“These laws continue to be incessantly used in Somalia to prosecute journalists, media owners, newspapers and political commentators often deemed by the ruling elite to be voices of dissent and opposition. As such, they criminalize various types of expression and prevent serious analytical reporting and debate on matters of public interest for fear of long periods of imprisonment and huge fines.” Mr. Daud added

The media in most countries on the continent in Africa are in need of capital investment, more legislative reforms are required. There is a need to make media independent of politicians. Africa also needs to have an open and frank exchange on the need to develop greater solidarity against repressive media laws and promote greater levels of self-regulation.

This week, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights will hear its first freedom of expression case. Brought by Media Legal Defenses Initiative (MLDI), it concerns the case of Lohé Issa Konaté, a journalist from Burkina Faso who served a 12 month prison sentence, was fined the equivalent of 18 annual average wages and whose newspaper was shut down for insulting and defaming a local prosecutor.

In August 2012, Lohé Issa Konaté, the editor of the newspaper L’Ouragan, published reports accusing Placide Nikiéma, the State prosecutor and the country’s main criminal court, of corruption and abuse of power. The reports alleged that a high-profile case of counterfeiting had been shelved following his intervention and that he had also intervened in a case concerning the illegal trade in second-hand cars.

MLDI has taken on Konaté’s case and now represents him before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. MLDI has asked the Court to rule not only that Konaté’s conviction violates his right to freedom of expression; but also that criminal laws should never be used in a dispute about reputation, and that imprisonment and closure of a media outlet are unduly harsh sanctions. Such a ruling would have an impact across African countries, most of which still enforce harsh criminal libel laws against journalists.

The case will be a landmark freedom of expression case at the African Court. A ruling by the Court that imprisonment for defamation violates the right to freedom of expression would mark a significant step forward for the protection of the right to freedom of expression across the continent.

Several journalists associations and human rights organizations have intervened in support of the application, including the Centre For Human Rights; Committee To Protect Journalists; Media Institute Of Southern Africa; Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network; Pan African Lawyers Union; the Southern Africa Litigation Centre; World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers; PEN International and the PEN centers of Malawi, Algeria, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa.

The intervention by these organizations elaborates on the negative impact that criminal defamation laws have had on the development of journalism across Africa and the real ‘chilling effect’ caused by the prospect of imprisonment for a libel case. Lawyers for the Pan African Lawyers Union and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre will be addressing the court on this issue; marking the first time that interveners will have been allowed to speak before the court as well as provide written submissions.

For more information or interview please don’t hesitate to contact the following persons:

SOMALIA CONTEXT: The Somali Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (SOMESHA) Mr. Daud Abdi Daud Tel: +2521858337/Mob: +252616349997 Email: daauud27@gmail.com

GLOBAL DOX CAMPAIGN: World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)
MRS. Alison Meston Email: Alison.meston@wan-ifra.org

Centre for Human Rights, Pretoria
Mr. Ahmed Sayaad Email: ahmed.sayaad@up.ac.za

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Somali Media for Environment, Science Health and Agriculture (SOMESHA)
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One Response to Practice and challenges of press freedom in Somalia and Africa

  1. Pingback: Practice and challenges of press freedom in Somalia and Africa – Somali Humanitarian News Organization (SOHNO)

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