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Democracy Requires An Informed Citizenry
By Ibrahim Adam Ghalib, Borama, Awdal
The media is the means of transferring or conveying information to large numbers of people. It is also a mode of learning for the people. It is the place where they develop seemingly strong opinions on a variety of political issues. The media’s portrayal of events can significantly influence public opinion. When people see repeated references on specific events or personalities, these events become more important to their lives and begin to formulate specific options and make decisions.
The media is not a place to criticize governments only. They are bound by ethical codes and with each degree of media freedom an equal degree of responsibility is assumed and required. When the people are educated and their levels of awareness is raised it is most likely that the criticism of the government is reduced.
The media also plays an important role in socialization and it is the process by which people learn to conform to their society’s norms and values if properly utilized. Now you can host a news portal and telephone conference allowing editors of many locations to log onto the conference without leaving their offices.
With this fast emerging technology of the information age Somaliland lacks even a radio network that can reach the whole country. Can any body believe that the administration is not willing to allow radio Hargeysa or private radio stations owned by the pubic that can reach the whole country? This is not because they do not have financial resources but they are afraid the media would investigate, report, provide information about the government actions.
The democratic process requires an informed citizenry and investigative journalism that would turn reportorial skills to uncover corruption, conspiracy and abuses of power on the part of the government. They must understand that the media uncovers not only the wrong doings of the administration but also have responsibility to highlight the mischief of all political institutions and the private sector.
The media do much more than provide public and private surveillance of events; they interpret these events by giving means and context that the public shape their opinion. Radio can be an important and significant source of political information to the public and enable them to give attention to the affairs of their country as well as the outside world.
The Somalis are not good readers and printing press is not adequate for their choice but radio talk shows are better for the listening public. Somalis usually tune in to radio while traveling and even in their bedrooms before sleeping. Very few people use the Internet. The most ideal media would be radio networks so that people would listen events live on the air.
Tolerance is a key factor in any democracy. Cracking on the media already created a public uproar and a bad image at international level. This radio is more beneficial to the government to reach the people and inform achievements much more quickly. Only the people of the capital now get feed backs from the television, news papers and radio that are all stationed in Hargeysa These cannot reach the whole country..
Unfortunately the people of the other five regions depend on the coffee shop parliament gossip and the kat gatherings [Fadhi ku dirir] for information. The people who travel to the capital always bring news about the government and these are not always reliable news to depend on.
One of the most complaints is that the government is not responsive to citizens. The administration should be attentive to the needs of its people. The people of Somaliland have every right for at least a radio network that can reach them and am sure the people will refrain from the speculative information that is damaging sometimes. The government should not be the problem but the solution.
I would like to put this issue to a public debate. I am sincerely expecting the audience whether at home or the Diaspora to academically discuss this issue so that we can influence this administration to change attitude.