By Mohamed Ahmed
A few days ago Universal television released a comedy sketch-characterized by irony and caustic wit- ridiculing President Silanyo of Somaliland. I watched the sketch and found it to be funny and harmless. My head spin in disbelief when Somaliland information minister Abdullahi Mohamed Ukuse interpreted the satirical sketch as a mean spirited condescension that was a threat to Somaliland integrity .I guess the sketch stuck a pin into the self-importance balloon of Somaliland president. According to the minister the television station is guilty of using a comical language and caricature of the President. The Minister took the sketch as a personal attack against the president of Somaliland and decided to suspend Universal television. If the minister actions doesn’t make every Somaliland citizens heads spin, then I don’t know what it will take to make them smell a rat!
The spectacle of Minister Ukuse suspension of Universal television clearly shows that Somaliland government has the carte blanche to do just about anything in the name of protecting the image of the president of Somaliland. This archaic and retrogressive laws used by Somaliland authorities to suppress opposing views- not less a satirical one- is very discouraging! The only aim of taking Universal television out of the air in Somaliland is to intimidate the journalist not to dare antagonize the powerful hierarchy of Somaliland. This case demonstrates that if Somaliland wants to have a livelier and more diverse media landscape, then they need to evolve in guaranteeing press freedom. Without freedom of press the whole of Somaliland ambitions comes apart at the seams. It would be difficult to defend a president who is contemptuous of criticism. Somaliland authority needs to restore their credibility by allowing Universal television back in the air and calm the roiling waters that threaten to drown this young ambitious country!
The unique role of the Somali press is to inform the public on wide range of matters, from local Somali events to those of international significance. Freedom of the press is largely instrumental to freedom of expression of the public and both will seem to flow naturally in a democratic state. If Somaliland wants to protect an image it should be their image of how they practice democracy. Presidents all over the world are ridiculed and I don’t know why president Silanyo should be of exception. They are lucky that Universal television don’t use animal character and descriptions corresponding to Somalia/Somaliland leaders. I guess the respected Minister don’t know that this kind of comical sketch is often used to point out pomposity, absurdities and hypocrisy of governments, which I’m guessing he just proved it effortlessly! I must say congrats to the producers of the universal television for the clarity of their message and the wit of their execution. Giving up the right to ridicule leaders should strike any Somali media personalities as the unholiest of deals to accept as a media
While we are still talking about Satire and Somali media we might as well mention the great Somali editorial cartoonist Amin arts. At time when most of Somali websites represent the interests of certain clan, Amin Arts succeeded in creating a visually imaginative or bitingly satirical cartoons of Somali politics of the day! Amin daily images speaks to the Somalis in a visceral way. His critical eye and rapier paint brush made him one of the leading cartoonist of Somali speaking people. Occasionally he also does get in trouble with sensitive Somalis who think he is directly attacking their so called leaders. Amin influence could be counted in the number of Somali politicians he made cringe at the sight of their caricature in his web page! We need more of Amin Arts in Somali media circus