Somaliland: Universal TV Ban, Was It Just a Harmless Comedy Sketch?


universal tv

Somalilandsun – Recently, Universal TV aired a comedy sketch of President Silanyo in a show titled “Faaliyaha Qaranka”. Subsequently, the Minister of Information of Somaliland held a press conference condemning Universal’s actions and revoked their operating licence in Somaliland.

Universal TV and journalism organizations have claimed that the clip was merely a joke and should not be taken seriously and have criticized the government’s stance. On the other hand, the people of Somaliland feel that this was a direct insult towards the President and the country as a whole.

Which argument seems reasonable and was it just a harmless comedy sketch as they claim?

Clearly, the sketch of President Silanyo was below the belt and more than just a harmless comedy sketch. The clip tried to portray the President as an ineffective aging leader who cannot run his government. Universal TV disrespected President Silanyo as a democratically elected leader and as a Somali Elder.

Universal and journalism organizations claim that this type of journalism takes place often in the western world and should be accepted. Indeed it is accepted, but one must understand that Western culture and Somali culture are completely different. To argue such point would also mean that they are also welcoming of many acts of the western world that go against the cultural and religious beliefs of Somali people. There are many things that are a part of Western culture – that I don’t have to name – that go against the cultural and religious beliefs of Somali’s. If its disrespectful comedy sketches today, then we will eventually see lies/scandals and damaging stories that are inflicted upon Somali leaders.

The clip also underlyingly displayed Somaliland as a federal state of Somalia. Ahmed Madobe of Jubaland and Abdirahman Faroole of Puntland were similarly made fun of on different occasions while the President of Somalia has yet to appear on the program. Why did the Mogadishu-based Universal TV poke fun at President Silanyo before their own President? Clearly it seems that they view Somaliland and its political system equal to that of Jubaland State and Puntland State. That itself is another reason why Universal deserves its ban as they disrespected the views and beliefs of the Somaliland people – 23 years as an independent nation.

I strongly believe that every media organization has the right to run independently and for journalists to feel safe and practice their profession freely. But I don’t agree with journalists and media organizations that practice unethical journalism and partiality.

Local Somaliland TV stations such as Horn Cable TV have never directed any shots towards the leaders of Somalia – what gives a TV Station from Somalia the right to poke fun at Somaliland and then expect to operate within its boundaries?

I was born and raised in the western world and what I saw from that clip, clearly goes against Somali values and is not something that should be condoned in Somali politics, specifically in Somaliland.

As for the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) and other journalism organizations such as NUSOJ (National Union of Somali Journalists), instead of blindly defending these journalists, they should train their members on how to be professional and ethical journalists. CPJ and NUSOJ only appear when a journalist is in trouble but do nothing to prevent their journalists from putting themselves in these situations.

Universal TV has opened Pandora’s Box and their cries of oppression and injustice hold no basis. The ban against the TV Station was the result of their bad judgement and unethical practices. I strongly believe that the stance of the Government of Somaliland is appropriate and just. Universal TV should swiftly retract their stance on this issue and hold responsibility for their actions if they want to repair their image with the people and Government of Somaliland.

By: Robleh Mohamud Lafcanbe

The author of this article can be contacted at or on twitter @RM_Laf

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