By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – Media houses are from now henceforth obliged to uphold ethics while reporting on local council elections.
The National Election Commission-NEC, Ministry of Information and all local media houses have signed a conduct of conduct that governs reporting during local council elections.
The Elections reporting Code of Conduct-COC is as a result of a two days Journalism Ethics training workshop conducted at Mansoor hotel in Hargeisa and co-facilitated by NEC and the Academy for Peace and Development-APD
According to the chairperson of the Somaliland Journalists Association-SOLJA Mr. Hasan Mohamed Yusuf the main objective of the COC is to ensure that local scribes adhere to Ethics of journalism especially during this election period.
He further revealed that due to the volatility of elections the COC which intends to legally bar journalists from sensational reporting that might raise tensions within communities also establishes parameters for prosecuting media houses for posting false reports.
Said he, “Journalists should desist from posting unfounded and sensational information that might incite the public thus derail the proper conduct of elections in the country”
The 2nd local council elections in the country shall be held on the 28th November 2012 with seven political entities contesting for the three slots of national political parties allotted by the constitution.
Other objectives of the now effective local council elections reporting code of conduct include:
• Protection of citizens private and family thus deterring journalists from relentless pursuit, intimidation as well as the use of hidden cameras and recorders while gathering information.
• Protect minors (under 15) thus obligating journalists to seek parental authority before conducting interviews.
• Protect Journalists against coercion to reveal sources of information.
• Deter media houses against posting information for personal gain or interests as opposed to impartiality.
• Obligate media houses to partake in voter education among others
The code of conduct facilitates for the prosecution on infringement of the above objectives.
On the other hand the COC gives journalists various rights that are geared towards ensuring that they do not breach objectives.
These rights include:
• Access to regular and factual election proceedings information from NEC as pertains to Candidates, Parties, International observers, Voting centers & officials etc.
• A safe environment thus election news gathering is undertaken without fear from any quarters.
• Treat all media houses without favour thus avail them election information on an equal footing.
• NEC to avail immediate updates on elections results as it receives them from voting centres nationwide thus deter media reports based on speculation and tittle-tattle etc.
Though the code of conduct is now signed and actually effective a number of journalists had misgivings on a couple of items that were removed before signing by the national election commission, Ministry of Information and Journalists representatives.
It now remains to be seen whether the code of conduct final instills some discipline in a number of wayward journalists and the media houses they work for- in relation to their absurd sensational reporting.
A similar code of conduct is usually signed prior to any elections in the country.