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NUSOJ calls on Somaliland's new government to open up broadcast media space

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) calls for the opening of the broadcast media space in Somaliland following a peaceful and a democratic transition of power in the recent presidential election on 26 June 2010.

For many years, Somaliland has constitutionally recognized media freedom and the establishment of independent media. However, the authorities have been hesitant to grant broadcast licenses to private or independent radio stations to enable them to operate legally in the country, under the guise of unconstitutional justifications that Somaliland will descend into chaos and anarchy if the radio airwaves were opened up.

Until now, Somaliland airwaves are under strict government control but many people continue to get their information through television and radio channels, a sector that has not been opened up officially.

"We appeal to the newly-elected president of Somaliland and his government to give practical support and facilitation for the establishment of radio stations in Somaliland so that people can enjoy and exercise their constitutional right to receive and impart information from other sources other than the government organs," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "Democratic gains through the ballot box cannot be sustained and enjoyed unless radio airwaves are opened up and liberalized, in line with the Somaliland constitution and international standards of free expression," Omar added.

There have been cases of wanton attacks on journalists and media houses over the past several years, including arrests, intimidations and the denial of broadcasting licences to Horyaal Radio, and defamation cases against print and online journalists.

The print media, despite having licences to operate, have been victimized for their independent reporting and are already facing the challenges of being the only alternative source of information and media in Somaliland. Judicial authorities in Somaliland are also not blameless in this regard following their persistent attack on the media. The judiciary has been accused of using its powers to frustrate freedom of expression in Somaliland. Nearly all legal cases against journalists have been ruled in favour of the government.

"Somaliland should make a clean start with the media by guaranteeing journalists their freedoms and rights. Judicial reforms should be undertaken to guarantee the independence of the legal system and to create confidence among the media fraternity. The judiciary should be viewed as a trustworthy and independent institution that can defend the fundamental human right of freedom of expression," he added.

"We need the yet-to-be discussed media bill to be made available in the public arena for debate so that it can form part of the governmental reform, in line with international standards of free expression," Omar added.

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