Somalia: MAP files a complaint against Puntland Minister of information, while Gov't double up media crackdown.

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Censorship’s most severe threat to democracy is that it limits the press’s ability to act as a watchdog over the government and those who otherwise hold power over our lives. State security agencies, the government and individual politicians often bear interests that can be at odds with the public’s own interest, and an independent press acts as a check on state power.

Garowe, Puntland- Media Association of Puntland (MAP) has accused Minister Mohamud So'ade of endangering Public interests, death threats to Journalists with a continued crackdown on the Puntland independent media ahead of Somalia's national elections. 

"The reprisals against media independence, the increase in censorship in recent months, and now the latest Puntland Minister of information's edict to independent journalist or media practitioners to seek accreditation from government that is designed to persecute whistleblowers and journalists clearly show that the government has taken the authoritarian road. 

In a letter dated July 9, Puntland Information Minister Mohamud Hassan So'ade instructed Puntland media outlets to send a list containing in service journalists to the Ministry for accreditations not later than July 25.

In 2014, 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 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. 

The Media Association of Puntland (MAP) is fatally concerned of this latest developments against the freedom of speech from the government - from death threats to journalists - to unexplained shutdown of media house to latest using accreditation of journalist as ''tool for censorship'' , undermining articles 14 and 22 of the Puntland Constitution, Article 18 of the Provisional Constitution and the International legal framework that protects freedom of expression. 

MAP has been consulting legal advisors and lawyers at the state's capital Garowe in the past weeks reviewing the gross violations against the Puntland media fraternity, the review that ended yesterday July 10 saw the swift need to protect the media rights and MAP will file a case against the Puntland Minister of information on grounds of constitutional violation. 

MAP chair Mr. Faisal khaliif who held a press-conference yesterday in front of Nugaal first degree court, openly informed the public on the state of media in Puntland - ongoing media crackdown and the violations thus far - concluding Puntland's media fraternity's way forward. 

The syndicate's chair outlined demands for lifting of gag orders imposed by Puntland's Minister of information and respect for freedom of expression  ''I have seen the Minister's letter calling for Journalist to submit and register at his Ministry, but the Minister has no legal grounds to enforce journalists to seek accreditation at his Ministry - if this is tolerated it means the government has alrights to withdraw registration from journalists at his/her political will, hence no more government watchdog, said MAP chair an interview on Thursday with the BBC Somali service. 

Press freedom is simply not allowed. As Puntland government matures, the government’s aspiration to dictate what is to be written, said and shown seems to grow stronger. 

Persons Violating Press Freedoms include the executive branch of government, cabinet ministers, the police and body guards of governmental authorities and last but not least, armed groups operating in Puntland. 

Today i want to tell the Somali public that we are through with our legal consultations and we decide to file a complaint to the court following the recent direct death threats, harassment and intimidations on the toward media crackdown, i also appeal to Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali to pay attention to the “deeply concerning” agendas of the minister while stressing that media played a vital role in projecting a better image of the state - underlined Mr. Faisal. 

We expect the Puntland judiciary to practice justice and be accountable the existence of the state's constitution - added Faisal!  

In 2014, 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 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. 

With support from National Endowment for Democracy, MAP mobilized Media stakeholders -Puntland lawmakers (50%), civil society organizations (22%), officials from the Puntland Ministry of information, culture and Heritage (5%) , and media practitioners (13% ) – for consultations on the review of the media law.  

The consultations resulted in consensus on the revision for the Puntland Media Law, participants proposed; 

a. the appointment of a review committee comprising 6-technical experts drawn from the media stakeholders in Puntland. 

b. They suggested the committee to consult with Puntland Ministry of information, MAP, Civil society groups and the Parliamentary media committee during the review of the medial law. 

c. Participants further suggested the reviewed draft law be delivered to the Minister of information who will then inform the President and submit to parliament to pass the bill and finally back to the President for enactment. 

On the implementation phase of the stakeholders proposal to review the media law. Puntland’s Ministry of information declined to collaborate with MAP and civil society. 

MAP’s tireless advocacy remains high and will continuously advocate for its reform despite rejections from the Puntland Ministry.    MAP 2016 top priority is the media law reform and thanks to NED for their continued generous support. 

Appeal to the International community  As the aforementioned gross violations not all affect the Puntland society this should be considered as an attack to the fundamental human rights in any given context. 

As Somalia expects to hold general elections, the continued media crackdown seriously undermines the media's role in promoting democratic election. Indeed, a democratic election with no media freedom, or stifled media freedom, would be a contradiction in terms. 

We call on the international partners to stand in solidarity with the Puntland media fraternity to overcome the threats and jointly protect the human-rights while promoting an enabling environment for Somali journalists.  

Today, press freedom in Puntland and the rest of Somalia faces a more severe and diverse set of challenges than at any point than the past years. 

While some progress has been made to push back against censorship in the region, increased violence against journalists and new forms of censorship now pose a significant concern. 

Finally MAP recalls for the Puntland and Somali authorities to take all the necessary measures – through legislation, protection mechanisms, and new adequate resources – to ensure that investigations and trials relating to crimes against journalists are undertaken. 

Authorities’ failure to address the entrenched impunity in anti-press violence enables attack after attack. End.

        ©2016 MAP | For further information, please contact: Media Assocation of Puntland (MAP) Head Quatters, next to Golis HQ in Garowe. Garowe, Puntland, Somalia. Office Line: Tel: +252-5-843258 Email: info@mediapuntland.org or chair@mediapuntland.org

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