State of the media



Somalia has an astonishingly varied and multiform media landscape. Due to the absence of an effective central government, private media outlets have been able to thrive. At the same time, Somalia media reflect the disintegration of the country and many of the outlets are linked to political parties, militias etc. The working environment for journalists is one of the most dangerous in the world. Journalists are attacked by the various rival factions, including warlords, regional administrators, independent militias, armed business groups, and others.

 

 

Written press

There are dozens of daily newspapers and weeklies, but these actually constitute photocopied A4-size eight-page newsletters with circulations below 2,000 copies. In Somaliland the leading independent daily is Haatuf that publishes in Somali. The Haatuf Media Network also publishes an English newspaper, Somaliland Times, and an Arabic weekly, al-Hatif al-Arabi. Others newspapers are Jamhuuriya and Mandeeq. Puntland’s leading paper used to be Shacab, but the headquarters of the paper were destroyed and editors arrested. The paper has not been published regularly. Headquartered in the capital Mogadishu are Qaran, Ayaamaha, and Mogadishu Times.

 

 

Audiovisual media

There are a number of television broadcasters in Somalia, located in the capital Mogadishu, Somaliland, and Puntland. They broadcast, often irregularly in Somali, Arabic, English, French and local dialects. However, most Somalis can’t afford television sets and its importance as a medium is limited.

 

The single most important medium is radio. The number of stations – often low-grade – is bewildering. The radio landscape is in constant development as stations are closed and new stations open. The leading Somali radio stations are Radio HornAfrik, the first independent broadcaster in Somalia, Radio Shabelle, Radio Banadeer, Radio IQK (Holy Quran Radio) and government-controlled Radio Mogadishu in the capital. Radio SBC, Radio Voice of Peace, Radio Galkayo and Radio Midnima are the main stations in Puntland. Somaliland’s main stations are government-controlled Radio Hargeisa and Horyaal. In june 2007 the Somali minister of Information ordered the closure of Radio HornAfrik, Shabelle, and IQK, the largest and most popular radio stations in Somalia.

 

 

Online media

Somalia's public telecommunications system has been almost completely destroyed by the civil war. Somalia was the last African country to access the Internet in 2000. Private wireless companies and Internet cafes operate in most major cities and actually provide better services than in neighboring countries. Internet usage in Somalia almost doubled in the last five years; the number of Internet users is estimated at 90,000 in 2006. The large exile community has pushed the development of Somali Internet, and the Internet has become a major platform for media activity. 

 

 

News agencies

There are two news agencies in Somalia, the Horn of Africa News Agency, and the Somali National News Agency.

 

 

Media organizations

The National Union of Somali Journalists was established in 2002 when a draconian media law was submitted to the former transitional national assembly (TNA) by the former transnational national government (TNG). The NUSOJ is a non-profit, non-governmental, journalists’ network established to deal with the protection and promotion of Somali journalists. In 2005 NUSOJ received the Reporters Without Borders - International Press Freedom Defender Award. On 4 August 2006, three gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying leaders of the NUSOJ, killing their driver. Formerly the NUSOJ was known as the Somali Journalists Network (SOJON).

 

There are several other organizations working in the field of journalism and media: the Somalia Independent Newspapers Association (SOINA), Somali Women Journalists Association (SOWJA), and Somali Women’s Press Association (SOWPA)

 

A number of organizations work in the field of human rights protection: the Somali Human Rights Defenders, the Peace Line Coalition of Grassroots Women’s Organizations (COGWO), the Somali Law Society, and the Centre for Research and Dialogue

 

 

Media policies

Somali journalists operate in a climate of lawlessness. Although the various authorities have promulgated laws on press freedom, they often lack the sovereignty to enforce these laws or choose not to. Militias and armed groups of businessmen often harass or even kill journalists without being persecuted by the authorities. Legislation adopted by the Transitional Federal Government provides for freedom of speech and of the press but also requires all media outlets to register with the Ministry of Information and imposes penalties for false reporting. In October 2002 a draconian press law was submitted but after fierce opposition of journalists the law was abandoned. Currently there is a new draft media law that sets out a regulatory regime for all journalists and media professionals. The preamble of the draft states that journalism and the media must be regulated by law to ensure that they do not “breach the rights citizens, institutions and the government”. The preamble then moves on to declare that “falsehood, groundless propaganda and distorting reality create vehemence, conflict, destruction and hatred, but what we need at this time is security, order, appreciation, justice, construction and living together in peace.” Article 19 argues that the law “imposes a straitjacket for the regulation of all journalistic and media activity” and submits that “the restrictions it [sc. the draft law] imposes on all journalists, in apparent pursuit of protecting the public’s right to receive high quality information, go far beyond what is allowed under international law and will likely end up impeding rather than promoting a free media.

 

In the two break-away regions of Puntland and Somaliland, press freedom is limited. Coverage of political and security issues is particularly perilous. The Puntland charter provides for freedom of the press “as long as they respect the law.” Somaliland passed a very liberal press law in January 2004. Prior to this law, the government tried to implement a far more restrictive law, which was lobbied against aggressively by journalists. In Somaliland, liberal decrees nominally guarantee press freedom, but authorities do not prevent the local administration from continuing to harass and detain journalists.