Press Release - The Media Bill if passed will block Our Recognition & Threaten Our Emerging Democracy
The Republic of Somaliland’s right to Freedom of Speech is Under Attack. The Media Bill is not only a threat to our emerging democracy but it will also block our quest for recognition. We must listen to the voice of the International community who have already expressed their concerns on this issue and will be monitoring the outcome of this bill.
Freedom of speech and a free press is a fundamental tool not only for our infant democracy but any true democracy. Every Somalilander who cares about the role of a free, independent and diverse press must be encouraged to draw his/her attention to this critical bill which will affect the future generations of Somaliland. Independent media relies on all of us which means that our support does count 100%.
We should not forget that Somaliland’s quest for democracy has been achieved as a result of free dissemination of information and free press. Any legislation passed to restrict freedom of speech of expression and dissemination of information will only create a state controlled media. This is a disaster for our nation’s young democracy.
Independent Media is one of the cornerstone of a true democracy which promotes good governance at all levels be it at local, national or global. If the government interferes or even tries to influence how media is controlled conflict of interest will set in with the possibility of corruption taking place. This is a recipe for a disaster.
Most of the Somalilanders living in the Diaspora use the internet for dissemination of information. Now what will be the implications if this legislation is passed. It will create a class division within our public where those who have the money to access the internet will be able to have more informed news at their disposal while the poor average person who can not afford the internet will rely on information that have been censored. This alone poses a threat to the fundamental human rights of the citizens living in Somaliland who would feel that their rights to freedom of expression and free press have been violated.
The general role of the media as an independent institution is to inform the public and foster debates. However, there will be challenges for the media in terms of realizing their potential as government watchdogs to increase transparency and accountability yet act as champions of public interest. A role that is very difficult even for developed nations to achieve.
The media’s role in stimulating democratic participation and protecting public interest is a challenge for the government if they are to engage the public interest in this area. For this the government of the Republic of Somaliland must support independent media that can also help them become accountable to their citizens in order to advance economic and political development of the country. However, in saying that promoting free and independent media also requires appropriate legislative and regulatory mechanisms specific to the media sector only and fully independent of the government. This will strengthen institutions (for example the judiciary ) whose existence can only improve media freedom. We hope the government explores strategies to address this.
With the development of the Internet Somaliland’s Media will bring new opportunities for our pastoral culture who are inspiring to be part of this noble technology . The poem below by poet Yuusuf Xiito taken from draft published by Academy for Peace and Development,“ The Role Of The Media In Political Reconstruction” explains how information plays an integral part of the daily lives of the Somaliland pastoral nation. What is more interesting is also that the poet states “Poetry once played the role of the media; a popular tool for discussion and critical analysis of political, philosophical, economical and social issues. That role has since been taken by other media sectors and the poets have gone without the least recognition.” This means that the poet is aware of how poetry needs to catch up with this new technology an opportunity and a challenge both for the media and the government to be tap into to promote media inclusion and diversity for 21st century democracy.
“On top of the mountains,
On the waters of the rivers and sea,
And in all over the world,
From the east to the west,
In Latin America and Europe,
Where knowledge and education is a priority,
And where the first pages of the newspapers,
And in the world of the Internet,
Where countries are interconnected,
Yes amazed you will be,
In this audio-visual world,
After all it is a world that feeds the Public”
To sum it, a diverse press is the watchdog that will protect the integrity of our Constitutional process. Bold actions are required if we are to preserve our freedom of speech and free press so that true democracy is established in our blessed country, The Republic of Somaliland.
Long Live Democracy, Long Live Somaliland.
SIRAG(Somaliland International Recognition Action Group)
12th January 2003