|The Somaliland Times||Home | Contact us | Links | Archives|
|ISSUE 53 January 25, 2003||
A Critical Study of IRIN Reporting: The Case of Somaliland
Amina A. Jama and Dr. Abdishakur Jowhar
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It was founded in 1994 to gather non-partisan news in hard to reach parts of the world. The organization is an essential tool for the development of humanitarian interventions on the basis of unbiased timely information. IRIN has also come to view itself as an agent of honesty promoting "reconciliation by countering misinformation and propaganda." (IRIN Web site: About Us).
IRIN has become especially indispensable in Somalia where the nation-state failed and was replaced by an anarchic Warlord ridden south and a developing state of Somaliland in the north that remains as yet unrecognized. In this setting IRIN has practically became a substitute for a national information gathering and distribution services and the primary information link of the failed state to the rest of mankind. It has achieved a level of information monopoly that allows it to shape international opinion and decision making in regards to this region. Scrutiny of its reporting patterns and prevention of bias is therefore essential for all interested parties.
Somalilanders both at home and in Diaspora have persistently raised concerns about IRINís lack coverage of positive developments and tendency to focus on the negative in its dispatches from Somaliland. Being a neutral and an apolitical entity there appears to be no objective basis for IRIN to behave in a partial manner. Nevertheless the persistence of anecdotal reports of partiality over the years prompted us to review IRINís reporting from the region.
IRIN, being a product of the electronic age, maintains a well-organized Website with rich and comprehensive archives. We reviewed all IRIN dispatches from Somalia and Somaliland from July1, 2002 to December 31, 2002. This is a period covering 6 months of news gathering and distribution from this region. We chose the latest 6-month-period. With the hope that it will be a representative sample of IRINís reporting. We read each one of the 119 reports that resulted from this search.