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Issue 645 -- 21st - 27th June, 2014
SOLJA: The Freedom Of Speech In Somaliland Is About To Collapse
Since 27/7/2010, when the former President H.E. Dahir Rayale transferred power to H.E. Ahmed Mohamed Sillanyo, the current administration has been assaulting press freedom in Somaliland. Many journalists have been illegally arrested, media houses including Hubaal and Haatuf have been shut down and a media law intended to oppress the press in Somaliland is in the making.
On 18/8/2010 members of the House of Representatives- majority of whom were from the current presidents’ clan – and the Ministry of Interior began drafting a new draconian media law. This law was nothing but a gag order aimed at weakening press freedom and freedom of opinion. It is interesting to note that neither the Ministry of Interior nor the members of the House of Representatives have any prerogative right to draft media law as such an area is beyond their jurisdiction.
Funding from above-mentioned activities was obtained from an American firm known as IREX. The funding from IREX was arranged by the firm’s representative in Hargeysa, Mr. Hassan Hiis, a close relative of the President. The media rejected categorically the law sponsored by above mentioned two groups, arguing that there is already a law governing Somaliland media, approved by parliament (the House of Representatives and Guurti) and signed by the former President ( i.e. Law No 27/2004).
Ayan Mohamed Ashur- a consultant from Adam Smith, an international NGO based in U.K. – came to Hargeisa in Feb. 2013 during which she stated that a funding of $300,000 was available for SOLJA concerning developing a new media law. However, after long and difficult debate, SOLJA rejected such funds on the ground that there is already a media law in Somaliland approved by parliament. Since such grant was about to expire in March 2013, SOLJA officials instead stated that there are many other priority issues for both SOLJA and media groups and proposed the following issues:
• Capacity building programs;
• The importance of re-instituting the faculty of journalism of Hargeysa University, which used to offer a distance program in journalists offered by American University. During this period, 40 reporters completed their education through the university, with total cost of $46,000.
• That there is urgent need to establish journalism school in Somaliland; the cost of this school is estimated to be less than $250,000; and
• Advanced scholarship for journalists
Unfortunately, the funding grant expired in March. SOLJA was given only $3000 for office renovation.
A member of parliament, Mr. Kijandhe, who was one of the proponents of the above-mentioned draconian media law, tried unsuccessfully for several times to include the so-called new media law into agenda of the House of Reps but to no avail as such a law is against the freedom of the press and freedom of opinion.
Another die-hard proponent of the new media law was the former spokesperson of the president, Mr. Abdulahi Cukuse, who is also current Minster of the Ministry of Information. On Nov 1, 2013, Mr. Kijandhe was removed from social affairs committee and transferred to the foreign affairs committee. Mr. Kijandhe then transferred funding that he had had under his custody to Mr. Cukuse adding that such funding is to be used to holding workshops and consultations aimed at developing new media law– an issue against which we have been fighting since 2011. Mr. Cukuse requested Mr. Kijandhe to transfer such funding to SONSAF, which he did.
During the eve of Somaliland Media Day, Mr. Cukuse, the Minister of Information, spoke in a ceremony held for such an event in Maansoor hotel. The Minister stated the government’s media law had been transferred to SONSAF and that the chair of SONSAF, Mr. Mustafe Sa’ad should convene a meeting for the media so that the new media law would be developed and implemented (watches the attached video which shows the speech of the Minister)
In Jan 2013, the government closed the headquarters of Horn Cable TV and detained 22 reporters who were demonstrating against the closure of the TV. The officials of SOLJA and the then Minister of Interior succeeded in releasing the 22 reporters. It was as a result of this joint venture that the government and SOLJA officials began official talks, held in the Presidency, aimed at diffusing the tense relationship between the media and government. During these official talks SOLJA told the President that the government should stop harassing the media. As a result an agreement was reached between the government and SOLJA as follows:-
On Jan 23, 2012, a nine member of the Executive Committee of SOLJA met with Hirsi H. Ali Hassan, Minister of Presidency, the government’s Attorney General, Mr. Mohamed Iidle, and former Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Ali Sheikh; the agreement reached by both sides is described below:
The Government and SOLJA reached a five-point agreement
January 24th, 2012
The government and SOLJA signed a five-point agreement which highlights highly sensitive issues including the implementation of law No 27/2004 approved by parliament and signed by the former president, which, unfortunately, the current administration has failed to implement thus far. It was also agreed upon that SOLJA should immediately establish media disciplinary committee, which has not existed before. The agreement comes after weeks of confrontations between the government and media brought about government harassment against the media and detention of the largest journalists since the independence of Somaliland. The details of the agreement are as follows:-
This Agreement will be jointly signed by the Director General of the Ministry of Information Mr. Faisal Ali Sheikh and Chairman of SOLJA Mr. Hassan Mohamed Yusuf.
On Jan 17, 2013 and Jan 20, 2013, meetings sponsored by SONYO Umbrella were held between SOLJA and the Government of Somaliland represented by the Attorney General and Government Legal Counsel. The aim of these meetings was to find solution for the tension and misunderstanding between the Government and SOLJA which have been on-going problem since the Kulmiye Government came to power in 2010. After a long and tough discussion, the following issues were agreed upon:-
1. The government should publicize and implement Law No 27/2004 which had been approved previously by parliament and signed into law by the former President. To ensure this, President Sillanyo will issue new circular confirming the implementation of Law No 27/2004.
2. SOLJA should immediately establish media disciplinary committee
3. All parties should work on the strengthening of peace and stability in the country
4. The Government should support and encourage the development of the media in Somaliland
For the above mentioned reasons and that SONSAF takes sides with the Government, we urge media stakeholders not to provide funds intended for media development to SONSAF. We also urge those who fund the media workshop organized by SONSAF on 30th January 2014 to halt and review their funds as there is already an approved media law that just needs to be implemented. The funds can be used for other effective priorities including providing basic journalism trainings the junior journalists.
SOLJA called inconstant information in the report published by Somali Media Support Group which told that Hargeysa has no institutes with access of journalism in distance learning. In 2009, number of Somaliland journalists took journalism courses from University of Hargeysa through distance learning after SOLJA signed agreement with the university and also media ins where the journalists learn
7th April 2014 about 16:00 local time, Somaliland Police with court warrant shut down the headquarters of the independent Haatuf newspaper and sister English paper, Somaliland Times. Human Rights Center strongly condemns the closure which is in violation of the freedom of the press guaranteed by the constitution of Somaliland. There is no court case informed to Haatuf to defend itself.
On 13th December 2013, in the same manner the Police closed Hubaal newspaper which is so far on suspension without any suit initiated against it.
On May 10 2014 Somaliland authorities have arrested the owner and founder of “Haatuf and Somaliland Times Mr. Yusuf Abdi Gabobe and the Chief Editor Mr. Ahmed Eggeh, the two journalists have appeared before a Hargeysa court with heavy guarded by hundreds of policemen and vehicles for the mentioning of the libel case filed by top government officials. The court also heard the testimonies of the Minister of Interior Hon Ali Mohamed Waran Cade and the Minister of Energy and Mineral Hon Hussein Abdi Dualeh who failed the stand to give evidence in the libel case. Judge Feisal “Dhago Dhago” the chief magistrate of Hargeysa district courts used Penal Code for their arrest and ignored Somaliland Press Law .On 7 April 2014, the shutdown order against the independent daily newspaper Haatuf was implemented by Somaliland police after being issued by Marodi Jeeh Regional Court in Hargeysa. A week later Hargeysa’s Marodi Jeeh Regional Court ordered to all three telecommunication companies banned news websites of Haatuf’s sister paper Somaliland times.
The suspension of the papers critical to the government is serious human rights problem that concerns Human Rights Center. The independent press is the backbone of democracy.
As stated in article 32 of the constitution, all the acts that suppress the media are prohibited. Article 28 of the constitution obliges the parties to have equal opportunity before the judiciary.
The judiciary shall be independent from the executive branch. The Center is very concerned the judicial acts that are silencing the press.
Somaliland Journalist Association SOLJA
Head Office Hargeysa