Somalia: Mass Media

Halkaan ka akhri

Somalia: Print and electronic media (Radios) during the suppresive military regime from 1960’s to 1989, the country had only two radio stations, and one newspaper named as Xidigta October (The star of Octobar), all run by the government:- Radio Mogadishu based in Mogadishu, and radio Hargeisa located in Hargeise both radios were set up to serve for the military regime’s voice.

The print media was operational until the beginning of 1990’s, then FM radio stations commenced to mushroom across the country, reaching out millions of Somalis who did not have access to the print media because of widespread illiteracy.

But the growth of the media in Somalia has faced strong opposition and continues to be hampered by the concerted efforts to curtail and silence independent voices. In the country’s northwest, the government of the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland does not allow the private ownership of radio stations, and independent media is confined to newspapers whose circulation is limited because of the lower rate of literacy. Journalists are often arrested and accused of false reporting or ordered to reveal their sources. Newspaper offices are constantly raided and searched without warrants.

In the autonomous region of  Puntland in the northeast, a number of journalists have faced harassment from authorities and some radio stations have been briefly closed down on repeated occasions for reporting excesses by security forces. However, both Somaliland and Puntland, which have enjoyed relative calm, despite all are considerably more respecting of freedom of expression in comparison with southern Somalia, where the most appalling attacks on the media took place the last two years in Mogadishu after the transitional federal government, backed by Ethiopian forces and supported by the US, ousted Islamists late 2006.

Journalist associations in Somalia e.g the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), a parner of Reporters without Borders in Somalia was set up in August 2002 as another association called Somali Journalists Network (SOJON) to promote and protect freedom of the press and the interests of journalists after the former Transitional National Government of Somalia (TNG) prepared and approved a repressive media law in Mogadishu.

Journalists in a Climate of Fear and Intimidation

No one has claimed responsibility for any of killings, and assassinations of journalists, and there are no official suspects. Somali government officials have promised protection for the media, but so far this promise has been an empty one. The transitional government, which has shown it’s unwillingness to tolerate a free press, has repeatedly closed down media outlets in Mogadishu and arrested journalists reporting on security operations by Somali troops -particularly in cases that have seen civilian rights violated.

The watchdog Reporters Without Borders condemned the action of the Somali security forces and laid the blame squarely at the feet of the transitional government. “The transitional federal government’s failure to take action in these circumstances in incomprehensible”, the group said in a late September statement 2007. “Caught in the crossfire of targeted killings and arbitrary arrests, Somali journalists have reached acritical threshold that is threatening the survival of an independent press in Somalia.”

International media watchdogs and some governments have voiced their concern for the “recent wave” of attacks on media in Somalia, “the world’s second most dangerous place for journalists after Iraq.” In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Secretary General Aidan White, said, “Mogadishu hasexperienced the worst press freedom violations, with journalists facing constant attacks,harassments, libel and intimidation.”

This has sent a chilling message to the journalist community there that not only will they not be protected but in fact they will be targeted if they publish investigative or criticalarticles. This has led to self-censorship, an exodus of journalists from their profession and crippled news dissemination.

“Despite this crisis and the constant death threats, detentionand arrest that our colleagues in Somalia face, many of them are continuing to work independently despite the risk to their personal safety. “Despite the support and advocacy by international watchdogs and foreign governments, the exodus of journalists increases, the fate of Somali press freedom remains in jeopardy.

Elias Adam

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