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|Intimidating the Press|
Hassan Mogeh Hirsi
Los Angeles, California, USA
Nowadays the number of lawsuits brought against journalists and newspapers has reached a new level. This harassment of the media in conjunction with the current debate in Somaliland's parliament about a Press Law, is frightening to say the least. It is a window-size view of the administrationís intentions and policy toward the press. Freedom of the press and speech must be the core of our democracy, an issue that cannot be negotiated. It is one of the achievements of Somaliland since its liberation and all Somalilanders are proud of it.
Most recent incidents of media intimidation are the arrest and conviction of Jamhuria reporter, Abdirashid Hassan Absiyeh, in Ceerigaabo, who was sued by few Cuqaals who did not like or disagreed with his report. Another example is the lawsuit against Haatuf editor, Saeed Ismail Guraase, regarding a meeting between the Interior minister, Ismail Aden, and some parliamentarians. A third example is the arrest and conviction of Haatuf reporter in Borama, Mohamed Omar Khayre, who was sued by the governor of that region. In each and everyone of the above mentioned cases, a government official accused a journalist of reporting false or unsubstantiated news.
Of course, the media must police their behavior and monitor themselves while the public should judge them through the free market process. Somaliland's people have matured and will be able to punish or reward the news agencies according to the credibility of their reporting, and for sure any media agency not acting properly will lose its market share in a heart beat.
It is imperative that the government should drop all charges against Haatuf and release any reporter currently in prison. I ask the administration to apologize to all reporters arrested, harassed or convicted earlier, and in particular to the Somaliland people in whose name it acted. We will not tolerate these kinds of actions, and we demand that the administration refrain from such illegal misuse of public funds and courts. The current Parliamentary debate on a bill to regulate the media is unnecessary, and a waste of public time, and it must come to halt. Parliamentarians should spend their time on the real issues facing our country; for instance, they should start preparing and debating the next parliamentary election, instead of diverting their energies.
Elected or appointed public officials are not immune to criticism, and anyone who can not stand it, can resign and move to the private sector. We want public officials who are accountable, transparent, and accept criticism. It comes with the territory.
Somaliland will only be a democratic nation, when its citizens are free to express their opinion without fear or intimidation by the government, and with freedom of the press. The police and the court system should be used for the real purpose for which they were created: to serve the public, not to intimidate it.