Independent journalists in Mogadishu were prevented from entering the airport hangar where the presidential candidates delivered speeches to lawmakers on Wednesday.
Twenty presidential aspirants delivered speeches to the MPs in a joint session, while nineteen other candidates, including many of the front runners, will address the parliament on Thursday.
At a press conference in Mogadishu, journalists accused the joint parliamentary committee of imposing restrictions on the media’s access to the venue.
One independent journalist said that the state-owned television was only allowed inside, and all independent media outlets were denied access to the polling station.
The Parliamentary Committee on Presidential Election said that all independent journalists would stay out of the venue and follow the elections from TV screens installed outside the voting hall.
The independent journalists argue that the September 17 agreement, which was reached by the country’s five regional state leaders, the mayor of Mogadishu, and the Prime Minister, allowed independent media to cover the indirect elections; and that the election commission’s refusal to allow private media into the voting hall violated the electoral political agreement.
Several journalists’ trade unions who fight for media freedoms in Somalia have decried the electoral commission’s decision to limit access to private media.
Abdalle Ahmed Mumin, the Secretary-General of Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), called on election officials to allow all accredited media organizations unfettered access to the voting hall to cover the presidential elections accurately and fairly.
“We strongly protest against this unacceptable decision by the Parliamentary Committee on Presidential Election against journalists. We have already reached out to them, and we hope they retract this restrictive decision; we also call international partners – particularly the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia – to urge authorities to allow independent media access to the voting venue without any restrictions or harassment.”
Mohamed Osman Makaran, the Secretary-General of the Somali Media Association (SOMA), said media practitioners must be allowed to do their job to cover the electoral process, which has been dogged with accusations of corruption since the onset.
“As Somalia now concludes the delayed electoral process, which is marred by many serious allegations of malpractice, it is again concerning that the Parliament is refusing the media to have access to the voting venue on 15 May. We ask all concerned officials to act quickly and withdraw this draconian decision.”