Somaliland: Media Threatens Fragile Democracy

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Public Release: Somaliland-018 – Horn Watch

Human rights watch

Somalilandsun – We, the undersigned pro-democracy movements in Somaliland, comprising of independent civil society networks and umbrellas ranging from human rights defenders and minority rights lobbyists, the disabled people’s activists, wish to present our findings and position on the dispute between the Government of Somaliland and pravite owned Haatuf Media Network (HMN).

Seven years ago when the Somaliland security forces rounded up the owner of HMN, the editor-in-chief of Haatuf Somali newspaper, Ali Abdi Diini, and the HMN Awdal correspondent, Mohamed Omer, the Horn Watch organizations spared no effort to stand by them and pressure the government to unconditionally release them. The Organizations, at the same time, succeeded to spirit away to safety a fourth suspect on the government list, Mohamed Rashid, finding him asylum and living means in the neighboring country of Ethiopia.

In 2007, the Somaliland impartial human rights defenders were fully satisfied that HMN was responsibly dispensing its media commitment honestly and to the letter, and that the corruption scandals they exposed had no ulterior motives and was in line with their exercise of independent media obligations in a democratic, pluralistic society.

Today, HMN and its owner have not earned the unequivocal support of the Somaliland human rightsdefenders and pro-democracy activists. Following a comprehensive investigation we carried out to identify the bases of the dispute between HMN and the government, we found out that the owner of HMN used the media facilities under his disposal for personal gains which is a clear departure from the principles and obligations governing the protection of freedom of expression thus understandably losing the unstinted support of local human rights groups.

Unfortunately, it has become clear to pro-democratic movements in Somaliland, following its in-depth investigation of the matter from all possible angles, that the current disagreement between the government of Somaliland and HMN was borne from a sustained defamatory coverage against Somaliland Minister of Energy and Minerals as retaliation for a perceived opposition to an expressions of interest that the HMN owner and his brother-in-law, Mr. Yussuf Abdullahi Omar, submitted to the government which according the Somaliland Ministry of Energy and Minerals did not measure up to government standards required for active involvement pertaining to the grant of concessions to petroleum exploration blocks. The principal company, Boule Mining Group[i], through a letter signed by one Audrey Richardson, “Corporate Secretary”, appointed Mr. Omar, to submit an Expression of Interest to secure Petroleum Exploration and Development Licenses within Somaliland[ii] to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources on their behalf. The communication between the Ministry, on one side, and the appointee with the owner of HMN, Mr. Yussuf Abdullahi Gaboobe, was confirmed to the human rights investigators by respectful individuals who tried to arbitrate the issue on behalf of HMN owner and his brother-in-law.

Following the rejection of the aforementioned Expression of Interest by the Ministry on technical grounds, the HMN owner started to continuously and intentionally publish highly defamatory material and slander against the Somaliland Minister for Minerals which grossly violated his constitutional rights without a shred of evidence accompanying it. The HMN coverage had the potential to yet have catastrophic consequences on the newly introduced natural resources exploration programs and their exploitation.

It is noteworthy that not a single other newspaper has taken up the HMN hue and cry of the past five months.

The rest of the independent media in Somaliland are of the belief that the HMN owner largely sided with the government protecting own personal interests.

Getting actively involved in business and broker-ship relating to the oil exploration initiatives in Suleiman HuquuqSomaliland, attests to the fact that the HMN and its owner have turned their backs on the impartiality and objectivity associated with independent media and the constitutional exercise of a freedom of expression.

The Somaliland human rights defenders are gravely concerned that the owner of Haatuf Media Network can use his resources for personal vendetta tools which can set a highly questionable example for the more impressionable ranks presently practicing journalism in Somaliland.

On the same token, the Somaliland human rights defenders are equally disturbed that some of newly established human rights and media organizations are deliberately covering up actual facts surrounding this issue from the public obviously fulfilling agendas of their own.

In conclusion, we, the pro-democratic and human rights movements in Somaliland, believe that the HMN case can be tried in a civil court. Prior to this, we urge the government to lift the ban from HMN on condition that it acts responsibly and with propriety within the realms of the rights set forth by the Constitution of Somaliland.

On a similar vein, we ask the residents of areas where the oil exploration affects not to claim sole proprietorship of consequent resources and to see the programs on their true, national perspective.

It is clear, that the current Somaliland media law is not sufficient mechanisms to guarantee adherence to professional standards and principles. Most important, Somaliland media industry needs policy and regulation upgrades, which can further develop their professionalism, independence and ethics.

Somaliland journalists is not expected to solicit financial satisfaction or personal interest as a precondition for publishing a story. It is also advised that journalists should strive to employ honest and genuine means gathering information. Although, where public interest is at stake, media practitioners should go the extra mile to obtain information. And apart from educating the people, the press has another social responsibility that of promoting human rights, democracy and peace. This is what the Somaliland press should address in this era of security threat and terrorism turmoil in Horn of African region.

Somaliland Pro-democratic and human rights groups strongly advise the Somaliland government to submit all oil and minerals exploration agreements with foreign firms, to parliament for ratification in order to foster an environment of transparency, unity and cooperation on national issues.

Furthermore, we call on the Somaliland government to uphold the Declaration of the Human Environment adopted by the Stockholm Conference stated in part that:

“The natural resources of the earth must be safeguarded for the benefit of present and future generations through careful planning or management, and that the capacity of the earth to produce vital renewable resources must be maintained and wherever practicable, restored or improved.”

We call all Somaliland stakeholders on all matters relating to national resources, to jointly create an environment in which all Somaliland citizens get the profit underlying the country’s oil and minerals exploration and development projects in an equal manner.

All interest individuals/institutions for detailed information about this case can contact: xuquuq@gmail.com, hornwatch@yahoo.com, Tel. +252-63-5147777.

Suleiman ismail Bolaleh

Speaker of Somaliland Pro-democratic Movements

Organizations Endorsed This Position Letter

– Horn of Africa Human Rights Watch Committee (HORNWATCH) Hargeisa

– Somali Rights Watch Hargeisa Togdheer region

– Saaxil Handicap Organisation (SHO) Saaxil region

– ALXANAAN women organization Saaxil region

– VAYS Youth Organization Saaxil region

– BILAN Women Organisation Saaxil region

– Disability Children Association Hargeisa region

– Laas-anod Youth Voluntary Organization LAYVO Sool region

– Las-anod Handicap Association in Sool region

– Muruq iyo Maskax Women Umbrella Saaxil region

– AL Ixsaan Development Organization Hargeisa region

– Non State Actors Nationwide

– Daami Youth Organization (DYdO) Hargeisa region

– Network for Disabled Persons Nationwide

– Young Minority Women Activists Awdal, Togdher, Saaxil & Mordijeex

– Displaced Community Concerns Awdal region

– Center of Research & International Studies Hargeisa

– Barwaaqo Farmers Union Gabiley

– Social Walfere Organization Hargeisa

– Human Rights Monitors Volunteers Hargeisa

– Welfare Tumaal Organization (WAAB) Gabiley

– Tumaal Development Foundation (TDF) Awdal

– Women Minority Organization (ISIR) Awdal

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[i] Find the attached Boulle Mining Group’s letter dated on 25 Oct. 2012 with subject: Expression of Interest to secure Petroleum Exploration and Development Licenses within Somaliland

[ii] Find more information about the Boulle Mining Group’s website:www.jboullemininggroup.com/

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