Somaliland media has grown exponentially for the last two decades from a handful of newspapers into a fully fledged free media and into a dozens of daily papers, including national TV and other private TV channels. However, although media growth is partially due to fledgling democracy in Somaliland, nevertheless, media in Somaliland lacks professionalism and directions, and even viability to survive in a non productive sector.
Media in Somaliland are going through difficult phases, partly due to lack of proper qualified journalist with experience and the knowhow to run a very important sector in a democratic society. The other things which let down their profession are lack of financial backbone, in order to run a quality paper, or a decent TV channel of that matter.
It seems to me that Media in Somalia and Somaliland are abused and misused by the same people who’re crying wolf of censorship and threat of their lives. No doubt Somalia and Somaliland media is evolving, but it seems not only they endangering their lives, but also they become an agent for hire and creators of mischief. Firstly, they don’t self censor themselves and secondly there are no other statutory or entity in Somali/Somaliland which monitors their profession.
According to most countries Media regulation is the control or guidance of mass media by government and other bodies. Therefore, this regulations via law, rules and procedures, can have various goals or objectives, for example, intervention to protect a stated public interest or matters that may be beneficial to the media or society in general. Obviously principle targets of media regulations, as anyone can find or research on other world media are the press, radio and television, also include film, recorded music, cable, satellite, storage and distribution technology (discs, tapes, etc), the internet, mobile, phones, etc.
On the other hand censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by a government, media outlet or other controlling body. It can be done by governments and private organizations or by individuals who engage in self-censorship. It occurs in a variety of different contexts including speech, books, music, films, and other arts, the press, radio, television, and the Internet for a variety of reasons including national security, to control obscenity, child pornography, and hate speech, to protect children, to promote or restrict political or religious views, and to prevent slander and libel.
Now if we really study the above rules and regulations followed by most countries around the world, where does Somali/Somaliland stand in that case? The answer is very simple none or rarely. What we have now in our countries is kind of irresponsible journalism which more often upsets the ruling government and creates enmity in an already volatile society. And since those governments didn’t set clear regulations for the media to follow, all we have now is mistrust and blaming of each other. Media in Somalia/Somaliland become tribal entities, and most often they don’t care or even aware the damage they do, as long as they convey their message of hate and bias directed to whomever or whatever they want to criticise or demolish. Amazingly, considering the amount information out there to be reported and explored, all we read now is nothing more than personal attack, rumours and insults exchanged and facilitated by so called media.
It’s time media in Somalia/Somaliland do act and come up with ideas that could help the reputation of the profession and stop misusing it for their own end. Media plays a very important role in a democratic society; and in fact they suppose to nurture and guide our democracy and the rule of law and not hinder it. It’s unacceptable to have a free media without responsibilities, for instances if you make a defamatory comment on TV, radio, the internet or in print then you can be sued for libel, but since Somalia media don’t have the financial muscle to pay the fine imposed on them, they’re risking to be imprisoned. Media around the world are the same, you just cannot write, print or say whatever you want, and then get away with it.
Already the government of Somaliland is becoming serious of dealing with their media, in order to regulate and censor them, by closing one of the big daily papers (Waaheen), which had a numerous opportunities to change their attitude towards a decent reporting, but to no avail. While recently Universal TV, owned from Somalia, has been suspended and their offices closed in Hargeisa (capital of Somaliland), due to their persistence of undermining the sovereign status of Somaliland, and by airing too many programmes that are very critical the unity and security of the nation, according to ministry of Somaliland broadcasting department.
Somehow, it seems to me that both opposition parties and Media has one thing in common, and that’s, they both want democracy and freedom without responsibilities. Therefore, it’s no surprise here that both media and opposition parties in Somaliland use the same method of irresponsible airing of their view without inhibition, and then shield their misdeeds in the name of democracy and freedom. And because of that, now the government is coming hard on them to regulate and censor their dangerous reporting
The government after long period of tolerance has started to monitor and censor of what they see as out of control and aggressive media. On the other hand the media has failed to censor themselves, and although, the government may suspend the license of some media, nevertheless, they’re still resisting to be censored, for instances, internet based news websites outlets, and other independent TV channels broadcasted abroad or via internet. However, this may still push the government to block or charm their broadcasting capabilities, just like China, USA, and Iran and oters do when dealing with internal or external threats. That means nowadays technology and technical knowhow will allow any government to block or jam what they perceive to be hostile to their national security.
For instances, some nations who’re blocking and jamming TV and radio broadcasting are, for example, USA, UK and others who has taken off the air Press tv, the Iranian broadcaster’s English language outlet, two years ago, after Ofcom (office of communication-see more what they’re and do) revoked its license for breaching the communication act. Thus, Ofcom, has contacted BSKYB, the satellite broadcaster that carries the press t Channel, to have it removed from its broadcast schedule, others who done the same include also Sky Satellite service. Also, some other western nations like Spanish broadcasting, had also decided to remove or revoke whatever agreement they have with Press TV. Of course, it all depend on how one country perceive on another country’s broadcasting material, which weights down their decisions. That means, if any country deems a particular broadcasting being threat to their national security, then they have the power to cut loose any broadcasting channel, by blocking, jamming, or revoking their license, according how far a country can go to control their airwaves. Likewise, Chinese government has recently jammed BBC World News, because of the stories they regard as too sensitive to their authority or even to their Chinese subject.
In fact nothing was more serious than what happened to The News International phone-hacking scandal — dubbed “Hackgate“, “Rupertgate“, or “Murdochgate” by the press – is a controversy involving the now defunct News of the World and other British newspapers published by News International, a subsidiary of the then-News Corporations. Employees of the newspaper were accused of engaging in phone hacking police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of publishing stories. And after long investigations by the British government, Ropert Murdoch corporation conceded defeat for their magnitude of wrong doings, which resulted News International, announced on 8 April 2011 that it would admit liability in some of the breach of privacy, cases being brought in relation to phone hacking by the News of the World. The company offered an unreserved apology and compensation to eight claimants, but will continue to contest allegations made by other litigants news.
This resulted James Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch announcing on 7 July 2011 that after 168 years in print the News of the World would publish its last-ever edition on 10 July, with the loss of 200 jobs. News Corporation said that all profits from the final edition would go to good causes. Downing Street said it had no role in the decision James Murdoch conceded the paper was “sullied by behaviour that was wrong”, saying “if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company
I just mentioned few countries who went a quite length, in order to control their airwaves and what their subject can hear or listen, but there are also many countries who revoked the license of TV’s and radios broadcasting of either local or international. Among them are USA, UK, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Cuba, Spain, Israel, Venezuela, et al. By the way, coming back to recent incident between Somaliland VS universal TV, the whole things wasn’t one incident, but a catalyst of errors previously done by Universal TV, that were deemed sensitive or danger to national security, such as airing talk shows and current affair programmes that would destabilize Somaliland existence as sovereign state. Suffice to say, any country that have internal or external problems with unwanted media can either block and jam their broadcasting ability, or otherwise revoke their license to broadcast inside the country. Nothing is impossible for any country to unleash their full fury against any media which they consider as enemy or instigators of hate and division among their subject. Probably they either flex whatever power they have to dismantle any media or probably hire capable nations or agencies to do their bidding. Either way, it’s not impossible to corner the media, even bringing a numerous libellous cases against them, to make them bankrupt or even with prison sentences.
Naturally, everyone of us wants a thriving media, but if they behave as though they’re above the law, then someone should bring down to earth, at least that’s the hard way of civilising them, and In fact, I believe it will be good for them to go back to school, in order to learn how ‘’media Vs law’’ works, in order to find out those important issues such as, defamation, libellous act, discrimination, and hate speech, contempt of court, et al.
So, what’s the way forward for both the media and the government of Somalia and Somaliland to solve their differences, and make peaceful co-existence? I will suggest few things to this madness. Firstly, the media in Somaliland and Somalia should censor themselves before being censored, and they should also understand what the media can and can’t report in a democratic society. Astonishingly, I sometimes wonder whether the Media in Somaliland do understand or even aware how international media works, especially when it comes self censorship. Are they aware, for example if they make defamation to ordinary decent members of society; what would happen to their already struggling papers? In fact, Somaliland media aren’t aware the possibilities of being sued for defamation? Indeed this alone can make them bankrupt, instead of being imprisoned. Media in Somaliland and Somali should take their provision seriously if they want to survive and be part of democratic institutions. Secondly, Media isn’t a child’s play without responsibilities, therefore, they should employ gate keepers whose responsibility is to monitor and examine whatever their publications or broadcasting is reporting or allowing to be read in their media outlet.
Am sorry to say, Somaliland media has become a tribal affiliated institution, which lacks a balanced and decent reporting, I have to admit, some of them are even disgrace to the profession, since all they do is more or less a prostitution of media provision. The only people we heard when government Vs Media escalates is SOLJA, (the union of media in Somaliland), but, somehow am not sure whether they train or held seminars to help their union about the media and the law, and the danger of media not self censoring themselves.