By: Yusuf M Hasan
Somalilandsun – The Committee to Protect Journalists-CPJ has released a statement castigating the Somaliland government for arrest of two journalists in Gabile town.
According to CPJ, the arrest of the two journalists is a continuation of the intent to muzzle freedom of press by the Government of Somaliland, which the New York based outfit accuses of a myriad of ills against society in the run-up to elections slated for mid 2015.
Following what was termed by the Gabile regional governor Mustafa Abdi Isse “Shine” as protective custody “two journalists, regional stringers for HCTV and Somsat TV namely Mukhtar Nouh Ibrahim and Mohamed Hasan Sheikh Mahmud were put under police custody for their own protection”.
“The two journalists were arrested to deter lynching by residents of Gabile after they published false reports aired by their respective channels pertaining to an anti-ruling party Kulmiye demonstration and burning of the party’s flag in the town” said Governor Mustafa
Following their arrest the two who were initially detained at the Gabile central police station have been transferred to the regional prison after the local court which is hearing their case remanded them until hearing date in a fortnight.
“The Somaliland government evidently thinks that locking away journalists who report on a public protest will make that protest disappear from history,” said CPJ East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes while urging authorities to drop all charges against Mukhtar Nouh Ibrahim and Mohamed Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and stop trying to intimidate independent journalists into silence.
The irony of the CPJ lambast of the arrests and subsequent demands for immediate release and dropping of charges against the two scribes is that the report is as usual on CPJ’s side based on ambiguous sources it terms “From local journalists” and in this case including “friends of the arrested”
While any miscarriage of justice to not only journalists but wider community is abhorrent, condemnation without proper facts is an eyesore not worthy of a prestigious institution like the CPJ which boosts of a worldwide operation.
While it is imperative for journalists in Somaliland and elsewhere to afforded a conducive working environment free from intervention by whichever authority it is also a MUST that professionalism and Ethics be the guide to what is profuse for public consumption.
On the issue of the two journalists arrested in Gabile it is erroneous for the US outfit and its East African office to demand immediate release for the circumstances leading to their arrest are of grave importance.
The two faked a Kulmiye party flag burning which their respective stations aired in addition to a reported demonstration in protest against poor governance by the same ruling party.
For the CPJ information Somalilandsun can confirm without prejudice that there were no protest demonstrations in Gabile nor did irate residents engaging in burning the flag of the ruling party.
The two channels being visual based only aired a short clip showing the feet of two people stamping on a burning party flag, see clip below, but not any images visual or static of the purported anti-Kulmiye party protest demonstrations.
It is more ironic that CPJ that continues to rely on its vague informants while negating the official authority on issues media in the country, that is the Somaliland Journalists Association-SOLJA, it miserably failed to notice that the Gabile incident that led to the arrest of the two journalists also resulted in the resignation of the HCTV chief Editor Abdilahi Omar ‘Wayab’ in protest.
Wayab a Veteran journalist of long experience resigned his post in protest of unethical practices at his HCTV perpetrated by his boss and station proprietor whom he accused of allowing items like the fictitious Gabile flag burning and demonstrations to be aired despite his, Wayab, refusal to do so.
Saying since he was charged with the responsibilities of the whole operations at the station that covers what is aired, Mr. Wayab informed that it was impossible for him to continue holding fort at the station and be blamed in due course for what he is oblivious to and has no knowledge of.
According to Wayab the airing of items rejected by him has been going on for some time at the HCTV the Gabile flag burning and demonstrations that he had verified as false were the camel that broke his back at station.
As if mocking the intelligence of Somalilanders or purporting that the Somaliland legal system is moribund, CPJ failed to acknowledge the resignation of Wayab though it was comfortable in attributing its information to media sources and friends of the accused.
Though the arrest of journalists in Somaliland has seen an upward trend in the recent past more specifically under the watch of the current administration of President Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo the CPJ has despite arrangements towards securing factual information from the authorities and SOLJA, Continues to not only rely on the undisclosed sources but act with carte blanche authority on issues related to freedom of speech and legal system in Somaliland.
It is of wonder that CPJ has decided to ignore an arrangement facilitated by Somalilandsun following articles titled “CPJ Goes Ballistic Again After Universal TV is Banned” and “Bridling the CPJ Condemnations”, in which the ministry of information placed a senior official at the disposal of the New York outfit 24/7 for clarification or information on any issues related to government action on local media houses or individual journalists.
While condoning neither the persecuti0n of journalists nor defence of government crackdown is not the issue here it is of import that the CPJ and more importantly its Nairobi Based East African Consultant Tom Rhodes adhere to the ethics they claim to protect thence secure factual information before castigations and illegal demands on the government of Somaliland.
At the same it is worthy of mentioning that the increase in friction between the government and media is as a result of lack of skills by members of the fourth estate and never ending disputes on media laws interpretation and implementation thus the CPJ should utilize its hefty wallet to facilitate a middle ground i.e. provide training and legal expertise as a prelude to its acquisition of much desired carte blanche authority to castigate and demean the government.
Somalilanders and the government are engaged in the pursuit of an elusive two decades quest for recognition of their country as a sovereign nation and the partial reports by CPJ are therefore discerned as a covert attempt to mar the good image the suffering citizens have garnered internationally.
Not to be construed otherwise the writer of this article is a bonafide member of UDUB the oldest political party in Somaliland
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