Somaliland: Bridling CPJ Condemnations



By: Yusuf M Hasan

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – Of late the Committee to Protect Journalist-CPJ has been very active in castigating the government whenever it crosses horns with the fourth estate.

While protecting journalists might be the preserve of CPJ which is a noble mandate, the New York based outfit seems to be fulfilling its mandate blindly, meaning that hastiness pervades whenever a journalist or media house especially from the developing world is reported to be experiencing difficulties with local government.

While acknowledging that Somaliland has within the last two years seen an upsurge in the arrest and subsequent detention of journalists and the CPJ has without hesitation gone ahead and issue statements condemning the authorities, this after only information from the aggrieved parties only.

While not defending the government’s arrest of journalists it has been established that the CPJ has never at one time or ever sought information from the administration thus a covert partiality which itself is an unethical practice in journalism.

A case in point of CPJ libel towards the somaliland administration is the suspension of the Hubaal media by a court order that included a caveat to printing houses issued a fortnight ago by the Maroodi-jeeh regional court under instructions from the acting attorney general Aden Ahmed Mouse.

The closure of Hubaal which not only received wide coverage but raised a hue and cry from various quarters was not spared by CPJ whose hastiness and partiality led it to release a statement issued by its East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes.

While applauding the usual speedy in acting the CPJ statement was drafted after partial information as usual from the Mogadishu based National Union of Somali Journalists-NUSOJ which represents journalists from another country rather than from the somaliland Journalists association-SOLJA which is locally based then the best bet.

Not to be partial like CPJ we contact a number of government officials in Hargeisa who informed that they have never been queried by CPJ on any occasion before they publish condemnations, CPJ itself is yet to respond to queries we posted electronically on the same issue.

The questions yet unanswered by the CPJ were collated from the STATEMENT issued on the Hubaal closure

Tom RhodesExcerpt- “Somaliland authorities often ignore their own legal system to censor the press, whether it is arbitrary detentions of journalists or, in this case, an arbitrary suspension order,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes

Query – Is Tom Rhodes informed of the legal system here as pertains to the media law? If so can he quote the article that is often ignored by the government in its arbitrary detentions of journalists or, in this case, an arbitrary suspension order?

Excerpt- . “If the authorities are serious about their desire for self-determination, then a functional justice system must be in place. The government must stop misusing its authority to censor critical news coverage

Does CPJ imply here that self-determination for the sovereign republic of Somaliland is impossible if journalists are detained?

Has CPJ ever investigated on the ground reasons behind the purported arbitrary arrests in the country or it only relies on NUSOJ?

The CPJ statement which was apparently drafted by NUSOJ an entity heavily funded by the New York based outfit also demanded that the Attorney general –Acting Aden Ahmed Mouse should withdraw his request for the suspension and allow Hubaal to resume publishing presumably because Executives of the Hubaal News Network, which publishes Hubaal and the English-language daily The Independent, had sought an explanation from the court and attorney general’s office, but were denied.

While this was a fact when CPJ released its partial statement having failed to ascertain with the authorities in Hargeisa, the court in the person of the Hargeisa regional attorney general reasons for the closure for the closure and informed the group’s chief editor and editor that they are to be arraigned in court for various offices related to the propagation of false and damaging information for public consumption.

The irony of the matter is CPJ is yet to retract its demands for the court to withdraw the Hubaal suspension even after the purportedly government that ignores laws of the land gave reasons behind the

If the alleged violations leading to the Hubaal closure are proven in an open court of law then the government would have been justified in its actions and thus exonerated from acting in an arbitrary manner geared towards the muzzling of a free press thus deter the free flow of information.

In brief the Hubaal is accused and two of its top executives charged with two counts related to

Count 1

In the Hubaal newspaper issue 147 published on the 21st Jan 2013 you published an article purporting that taking advantage of diplomatic privileges Ethiopian diplomatic staff based in Hargeisa are involved in the smuggling of illicit drugs (Alcohol and Hashish-Cannabis sativa) thence charged for contravening section 10, 12, 13 &14 of the media laws #27/2004.

Count 2

Accused of propagating false information in issue 262 published 10 June 2013 that purporting that the head of the republic of Somaliland H.E Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo is sickly and has relinquished duties to a minister at the presidency.

The Acting Attorney General who informed the Hubaal duo of Chief Editor Mohamed Ahmed Jama ‘Aloley’ and editor Hasan Hussein Abdilahi that dates for their court appearance shall be communicated at a later date also revealed that the prosecution shall present 3 witnesses namely:

  1. Dahir Muse Abraar – Officer-in-charge CID

  2. Mohamed Nuur Kariiye – Crime investigator-CID

  3. Hubaal newspapers issue 147 & 262

This said it is here suffice to say that CPJ which is known to act for persecuted journalists should change its tact as pertains to somaliland the country that it continously calls a self-declared republic.

At the same time the scribe’s protectors’ body has in the past acknowledged (through usual NUSOJ sources) that many journalists admit a lack of professionalism is a problem, thus contravention of laws which result in the acts by the government.

A recent report by the Horn of Africa Human Rights watch revealed that lack of professionalism among local journalists coupled with uninformed defence by some international organizations, read CPJ, is cause of never ending frictions with the government.

To this effect and with CPJ’s Mogadishu availed knowledge the body has never attempted to support the training of journalists in Somaliland, while it pours hundreds of thousands in USA dollars to the NUSOJ outfit.

To end this loggerheads it would be worthy for the Committee to Protect Journalist to establish proper channels of communication with the Hargeisa based administration thus informed condemnations this would be better done by opening an office in Hargeisa.

See the CPJ condemnations from its site

What every clear minded person shall or has noticed from the CPJ protestations whenever the Somaliland government acts against the media is that the CPJ information is derived from NUSOJ and local journalists!

sample of a few NUSOJ/CPJ Allegations

  1. “Somaliland authorities must end this crackdown on independent reporting,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “The government must stop harassing journalists and uphold its campaign pledge made last year to support press freedom.” Journalists continue to be targeted in Somaliland
  2. The government considers Borama a center of opposition since the former president comes from the town, local journalists said-Somaliland police detain journalists in Borama

  3. Police beat Hodan Abokor, a reporter for the state broadcaster Somaliland TV, during a fight among members of the public who were present in the court in the northern town of Borama, according to local journalists- Somaliland police beat TV reporter with rubber pipe

In conclusion we hope CPJ will answer the following

  1. How does CPJ support SOLJA a local journalist association in Hargeisa in view of the attention given to Mogadishu based NUSOJ?

  2. While it is a fact that arrests of journalists have increased in the past two years has CPJ undertaken investigations to determine reasons, who is wrong state or journalists etc.?

  3. According to a recent study by the HAHRW most Somaliland journalists act unethical; to verify this is the CPJ willing to fund a study and subsequent action thus negate the purported lack of ethics?