“An independent and free media sector is essential to ensure that a wide range of viewpoints is expressed and communicated to the public”
By: Yusuf M Hasan
Somalilandsun- Local journalists are gearing up for the Somaliland Presidential Elections to be held on the 13th November 2017.
In pursuit of ensuring that the country’s fourth estate is in tandem with international norms of elections covering and reporting the Somaliland Journalists Association-SOLJA facilitated training of journalists as pertains conducted Role of Media on the Electoral process.
The two days workshop held at the Ambassador hotel in Hargeisa was funded by the United Nations Mission in Somalia-UNSOM pooled its 32 participants from print, Radio, TV and Online journalists based in the Western Somaliland Regions of Maroodi-jeeh (Hargeisa), Gabile and Awdal (Borame) respectively.
According to the SOLJA Executive Director Yahye Mohamed Abdi who was also main facilitator the intent was first to orientate journalists with the recently adapted Media code of conduct during Somaliland presidential elections.
The code of conduct pending joint signature by the national election commission-NEC, SOLA and the three national political parties of Kulmiye, UCID and Wadani respectively sets out the do and don’ts related to reporting on the campaigning kicking off on the 21st October as well penalties for infringements.
Stressing on the importance of media not only in elections but in all other aspects of life youthful Yahye Mohamed said that it is the intention of SOLJA to see to it that voting in forthcoming presidential elections is knowledge based thus negate usually clan based ballot.
This was exemplified by his presentation in which participants were separated into three groups and tasked with evaluating the foreign policy (Quest for recognition), Economic and national defense strategies and policies as per the Kulmiye, UCID and Wadani parties manifestoes.
While stressing that Media should be independent from influence of clannism, political affiliation, gender etc Main topic included
– Government should guarantee the freedom and independence
– Journalists have the responsibility to inform the public, and respect the rights of others
– Media coverage that may be regarded as incitement to violence or hate speech.
– Incidents of violence, threats or detention of journalists and representatives of media organizations owing to their reporting on the elections. (Journalist can be prosecuted for crimes under the law)
– Criminal prosecution and sanctions against journalists and representatives of media organizations based on their reporting on the elections.
– Incidents of harassment of media outlets by the authorities.
– Biased or unfair media reporting, especially by public media against opposition parties.
The three parties contesting the Somaliland presidential elections have each issued manifestoes detailing what policies and strategies each will put in place in governing the country if it wins the elections come November 13th.
Facilitating on behalf of UNSOM was Ahmed Osman Jama whose topic related to Monitoring Human Rights in the context of elections more so in a fledgling democracy like that of Somaliland.
• Human rights in the context of elections
✓Key human rights standards
✓Issues to monitor
✓Monitoring the rights of specific groups
• Monitoring during different phases of the electoral process
✓Monitoring pre-electoral phase
✓Monitoring during the electoral phase and
✓Monitoring during the post-electoral phase
On the Political Context, Electoral Standards, anticipated challenges and Role of Media on the Electoral process during the Somaliland Presidential Elections, the Somaliland Non State Actors Forum-SONSAF executive director Mohamed A. Mahmoud ‘Barawaani’ was at hand.
In his detailed presentation titled HOW SOMALILAND FITS TO INTERNATIONAL ELECTORAL CYCLE, Barawaani who commenced by graphically displaying where the country stands in the run-up to the November elections, which is ready for polls, NEC having successfully completed relevant phases like voter registration, voter cards distribution, Training of election officials, equipment and tools procurement, Candidates certification and other services like transport outsourcing among others.
Main topics of the Barawaani presentation included
Pillars of the electoral process.
Role of media on electoral process and
Of most import to participants eliciting much panel discussions related to the key pillar of the electoral process described as
Multiparty : more than one party
Elections: Free, fair and timely elections, popular vote not small group of people to manipulate.
Political tolerance: This means that while the majority of the people rule in a democracy, the rights of the minority must be protected.
Rule of law: When application of the rule of law is weak, corruption flourishes. Bribery, kickbacks, rigging, and policy favors for family.
Freedom of expression: a free press, supported by open Internet access, is indispensable to keeping the public well informed as part of a functioning democracy.
Also accruing interest was the role of media in voter education as well as the knowledgeintervention, individually of journalist through
Critical analysis of candidates, parties and their manifestoes or programmes.
“ In this regard the media must compare & contrast candidates & parties as well as their programmes while Context must be provided by reference to researched studies about the country & the electorate’s issues and wishes” Barawaani told workshop participants
Bringing the function to close was chairman of SOLJA Mahmud Abdi Jama ‘Huto’ who could not hide his glee on the apt outcome of the training on role of media in Somaliland elections while commenting the Prominent presence with a large representation by the Somaliland Women in Journalism Association-WIJA who members was not only for the first time in their tens at such a forum but whose participation was discernible throughout the two days
Stressing that media on the electoral process acts as channels of communication thence the lifeblood of the democratic process, Huto said that this emanates from the fact that journalistsplay at least six critical roles in a democracy or democratization processes namely ;
Information profusion ,
open forum for debate and discussion s well social representation
In conclusion Huto took the opportunity to thank UNSOM for making the training possible while committing his organization’s members to implementation of newly acquired skills that shall led to truly transparent and fact based process during and after the Somaliland presidential elections.