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Published On: Fri, Sep 22nd, 2017

Somaliland:Let’s save Hargeisa newspapers

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The solution to declining sales of Somaliland newspapers partly lies in marketing,

By Liban Ahmad

In a report filed by Saab TV reporter in Hargeisa a young newspaper seller in Hargeisa had pointed out economic pressures that may lead to theclosure of several newspapers. The newspaper seller told Saab TV reporter that a few people buy newspapers these days.  “Potential buyers scan pages of a newspaper and say they had read the news in websites”.  One newspaper seller interviewed by BBC Somali Service stringer  said he had left education   because his family was not able to pay high school fees. About the declining newspaper sales, he and erratic customer behaviour he said: “These people a few people buy newspapers. Some drivers snatch the newspaper and drive off without buying it” he said. Hargeisa newspapers owners and editors are to blame for people’s lack of awareness about the value in buying a newspaper instead of reading a website. 

 

Hargeisa-based newspapers abide by the Somaliland Press Code of Conduct. There is difference between reading Qarannews.com and Waaheen.com; the latter is a website of a daily newspaper; the first a website registered outside Somaliland.  Newspaper editors publish carefully edited news and commentaries. Editors and journalists are members of professional bodies. In a recent meeting Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA) agreed on a set of resolutions including coming “up with alternatives [to ] … solv[e] disputes arising from media mal-practises.” 

 

In the developed countries, the Internet has challenged the newspaper-based advertising model; it forced many newspapers to introduce a paywall. Somalilandnewspapers do not need to adopt this business model. What newspapers need is to pool their efforts and resources in conjunction with companies to launch a campaign to save newspapers. Local companies can advertise in newspapers and associated websites. This is not easy if a newspaper does not have media sales department whose job is to sell adverting space to companies, public institutions and non-governmental organisations.  Newspapers can introduce delivery of newspapers to subscribers at home or in the places of work.

 

Major Somaliland companies such as Dahabshiil Group can play a role in boosting the newspaper industry through no-strings-attached subsidies, sponsoring letters’ pages and other civic media initiatives. Diaspora groups could contribute a Somaliland Press Trust aimed at making newspapers economically resilient through the promotion of excellent reporting and commentary writing.  Instead of relying only on TV,  Somaliland political parties can  advertise their programmes in newspapers. Opinion pieces by party leaders and interviews with government and opposition MPs will turn out to be useful reference materials for students and scholars in and outside Somaliland. Newspapers can facilitate engagement with political parties.

 

The decline of the newspaper sales will have an impact on the book publishing industry in Somaliland. Hargeisa will not be able to retain “the centre of the Somali culture” status if websites acting as a mouthpiece of social groups drive newspapers out of business. Somaliland newspapers have boosted the literacy rate in the Somali language and enhanced the democratic experience of Somaliland. There is no need for complacency. Hargeisa newspapers are a part and parcel of Somaliland democratic progress. As elections in Somaliland get closer, newspapers are the only source of information that strive to provide unbiased news. Newspapers in Hargeisa seldom endorse a presidential candidate for fear of losing readership. It is incumbent on the political and the business class of Somalilandto save Hargeisa newspapers from closure.

Liban Ahmad

libahm@icloud.com

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