A Critical Study of IRIN Reporting: The Case of Somaliland
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Results and Discussion
Out of a total of 119 dispatches from the region (Somaliland and Somalia) 9 reports were about Somaliland, a mere 7.56%. Given the geographic, population, political and regional importance of Somaliland such a scarcity of coverage by IRIN is difficult to explain.
IRIN’s reason for existing is to serve as an instrument that gathers reliable information that could guide humanitarian action. In spite of this, its coverage was almost non-existent in the important areas of Gender issues (0 reports), Environment (1 report), Economy (1 report), Health/Nutrition (1 report), Human rights (3 reports), Refugee/IDP (4 reports). These figures cover both Somalia and Somaliland.
One category (Peace and Security) took over 72% of all coverage from this region. This could partially be explained by the fact that anarchy and absence of law and order is the major impediment to humanitarian interventions in Somalia. However more than one half of the reports on peace and security are actually about the Eldoret reconciliation conference, the latest of the 14 or so of disappointing political meetings held to resolve the anarchy of Southern Somalia.
Two major events took place in Somaliland and Somalia in the period covered in our review of IRIN dispatches: The Municipal Elections in Somaliland and the Eldoret Peace Conference for southern Somalia. During that time IRIN had 3 dispatches covering the elections of Somaliland compared to 41 dispatches covering the Eldoret conference. The Municipal Election in Somaliland is a landmark achievement for all Somali speaking people as it represents an alternative to violence, warlords, tribal chiefs, and failed externally driven conferences.
Even when IRIN covers issues pertaining to Somaliland its dispatches are tilted towards the negative and the unfavorable. For example IRIN had 1 story about human rights in Somaliland. On Aug. 29/2002 IRIN reported on "Editor Imprisoned in Somaliland". That is the totality of its coverage of human rights in this young democracy. IRIN ignored totally the great strides this nation made in introducing a free press and a multiparty democracy. It ignored the fact that there is not one political prisoner nor one assassination or injury related to political, ideological, religious, racial, or gender beliefs in the whole country. Interestingly, IRIN had 1 story on human rights from southern Somalia during that same period of time. On Oct 2/2002 IRIN reported about how the president of the TNG defended the freedom of the press. A cynic could hold with some justification that IRIN sees no evil and hears none when it comes to its coverage of its protégé in Mogadishu, the TNG.
Out of 5 dispatches concerning peace and security in Somaliland, only 1 report gave due credit to the people and the government of Somaliland for the stability and peace they achieved, the other 4 concentrated on the instability in relatively limited border region of Somaliland that is negatively affected by the neighboring warlords.