by Adan H ImanFor the past one year, President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Silanyo) has emerged, of all the leaders who ruled Somaliland since its founding, as the most sensitive and intolerant to media criticism. Events that can lead to the imprisonment of reporters and the shuttering of newspaper offices and the banning of TV channels to broadcast into Somaliland include covering a public demonstration,or publishing or airing stories that are critical to the administration.The administration has now regularized the mistreatment of the independent media and there are reportedly discussions among administration officials now of how to tighten the screws even further.The following incidents support the above generalization:
Friday, December 12, 2014
·On December 1, 2014, two journalists were put in Jail in Borama: Mohamed Abdi Muse of Boramanews.com and Abdulaziz Ibrahim Abdillahi of Universal TV. The two journalists were going about their work covering a demonstration in Borama triggered by the imprisonment of the former mayor of the City, Abdi Shide Bile.
·In November, 2014, the Minister of Information proposed that a fee be charged to journalists. It must be pointed out the proposed fee is not for getting more revenues but solely to discourage the press from criticizing the administration.
·At the end of October of 2014, Muktar Nuh Ibrahim of Horn TV and Musa Hassan Sheikh of Somsat TV were thrown into jail for covering a demonstration in Gabille where the flag of the ruling party was burned.
·In April 2014, Haatuf and its sister newspaper, the Somaliland Times, were shuttered and the owner Yusuf Gabobe and his editor Ahmed Egeh were imprisoned. In July they were released from jail. Since April 2014 employees of this media company, who number about 25, are still out of work.
·In February 2014, Universal TV was banned from broadcasting into Somaliland
·And in December 2013, Hubal newspaper was shuttered.
The man who is putting journalists in jail for covering demonstrations or for publishing or putting in the air information that is critical to the government must be capable, if it were in his power, to impose complete censorship on the media.
We went through a period of full media censorship during the Siad Barre era. Reporters were conditioned to self-censor by assimilating the talking points of the regime and basing their reporting on those concepts. The talking points of the regime were: the regime is following the Socialist ideology, the final stage of human development; that immense progress was achieved under Siad Barre, the Father of the Nation, in the cultural, social, economic and political fields and that the enemies of the Somali people are tribalism,hunger and disease. (Few weeks ago Somaliland.org carried a story which quoted the Mayor of Togwajale, Somaliland, as saying that the independent media and clannism are the two enemies of the Somaliland people- I’m not kidding!).
But what is policy behind this focus during the past year of cracking down on the media, a war he can’t win but that will only mar his legacy, is anybody’s guess.
President Ahmed Silanyo’stendency to impose his will on the media is constrained by the fact that Somaliland is a thriving constitutional democracy, by the advent of the internet with ubiquitous websites that can’t be controlled by anybody and by pressure from donors to respect the constitution’s protection of the freedom of the press.
Art imitates life and reporters try to capture and transcribe the reality through images or words or writing. If the Silanyo administration wants badly to receive favorable press coverage and avoid bad publicity, they need tojust always do the right thing.
The time of parroting the talking points of a regime has long passed away.
Adan H Iman
Los Angeles, CA (USA)