Somalilanders, though living in a diplomatically unrecognized country, are not written off the face of the earth. They are here and they intend to remain here as responsible members of the international community, respecting its peers and being fully respected, in return, for what they are.

Furthermore, Somaliland should be doubly rewarded for its herculean achievements in economic development, democratic practices, peace and stability and multi-sector development in almost all pivotal spheres without the blessing of bi-lateral trade agreements with anybody or the monetary support of international financial organizations such as the IMF. In the face of adversity, Somaliland leapt out of the shambles of near total destruction in the late eighties to become a much stronger, more determined phenomenon that never ceases to amaze the world up to this day. It managed to build and hold together a nation in a region whose stability is as treacherous as quicksand, whose safety precariously balanced on a hair-breadth string over an ominous bottomless pit of uncertainties.

In this light, the outside world, IFJ, CPJ and all the other ..Js included, should see Somaliland. I am sure this would have lent the right weight to their off-the-cuff, impulsive accusations which betray a stark absence of impartiality, accuracy and fair dealing not befitting organizations that purportedly represent professional journalism.

Elsewhere

Elsewhere in the world respectable media houses, Journalism associations and media councils see to it that reporters follow ethical guidelines. They make sure that reporters look out for themselves, for their colleagues, for their employers and for the public and observe correct, responsible, professional practices. They protect members from unintentional mistakes and equip them with requisite skills to differentiate right and wrong, fact and opinion.

Elsewhere in the world, IFJ, CPJ and others actively encourage the draft and ratification of media laws and the formation of media councils that they regulate. The organizations recognize the need for law and order. They know that in the absence of a law to keep journalists and their subjects from each other’s throats, neither can decently and confidently live in the presence of the other. Mutual respect and the rule of law is developed this way – and respected.

Elsewhere, there are laws that regulate who qualifies for the profession and who does not. Once accreditation is ascertained the responsible journalist enjoys all the rights and benefits of his profession in the eyes of the law and the public. He/She reports on facts and figures fully knowing his/her critical, very important use for society as a reporter, informer, educator, builder, developer, arbitrator and researcher. The more so in fragile, developing countries than in societies that have developed overlapping protective shields against the hell-bent elements in the profession.

Reporters report and do not invent stories. They neither edit matter to tailor it to their likes and dislikes nor do they embellish it or alter it in any way detrimental to the core essence of the subject matter, event or research. Reporters keep out of their stories. They remain outside but subtly draw you into understanding what is being reported. Reporters leave you to judge for yourself. They do not tell you what to do or how to do it.

In other words, a report a good, ethical journalist produce aims to be objective, impartial, fair, factual, timely, and relevant – and far from a subjective, greed-driven, partisan, caustic versions of what it should have been.

No responsible journalist takes up a pen, a camera or cassette recorder to coerce victims to cough up hard cash. Neither does he actively twist and fabricate facts to intentionally hurt or blackmail a subject to extend him favors, extend him concessions, garner contracts, provide him secrets or elevate relatives to higher positions and heftier pay packages. Or else …

In Somaliland

Professional journalism is dying in the hands of ruthless executioners that pose as journalists. In Somaliland, organizations actively encourage erring journalists to go on the rampage. The good and ethical practitioner is demoralized; the blackmailer is egged on to more and more brazen fabricated ‘reports’ to cow victims to submission.

In Somaliland, there is no active, workable media law or Code of Ethics governing the practice. Neither is there an arbitration council. And yet, the country has one of the most thriving, most vibrant media houses in the region.

Among the Somaliland media, however, there are, expectedly, the few that are in the profession for personal gains. How they realize that is anybody’s guess. Any of you can name the ‘few’.

It should have been the responsibility of SOLJA – through which eyes the IFJ and CPJ and others of like genre view Somaliland – to temper the vagaries of those lending the profession such a bad name. They should have spoken out in public against those that were not practicing ethically correct journalism.

Organizations such as SOLJA, IFJ and CPJ should have been on the side of the wronged to prevent or limit the occurrence of arbitrary arrests, cumbersome lawsuits, unfair castigation of public officers, business people, fellow journalists, instigation if unrest and instability, encouragement of clan rivalries, misrepresentation of facts, and violence borne of such and similar activities. The organizations must be aware that their good names can be tainted by so-called reporters that are quick to blame everybody but themselves.

There is no sign of these august organizations when everybody’s rights are so callously, so heinously being trampled upon and the rule of law flaunted in the hands of extortionist hackers posing as journalists. No sign of them at all.

It is better to help the sick alive. One does not treat the dead. No amount of eulogies can bring it back to live.

SOLJA, IFJ, CPJ and others only spout forth their standard, hollow ‘condemnations’ after somebody, somewhere reacts in self-defense. By doing so, they expose their disregard for all decency and the rule of law. By doing so, they scoff at all the loftier principles of journalism: accuracy of facts, impartiality, thorough research into alleged misbehavior and the like. In conclusion, we ask said organizations, with all due respect, to salvage what is left of their reputations and stop misleading the more impressionable among media practitioners in Somaliland and elsewhere in the developing world. Instead, they must actively work with both authorities and the media world to develop mutual respect for law and order, and for one another based on adherence to basic human rights precepts. Defamation, libel, seditious coverage, graft, extortion, blackmail and adulteration of facts must, in no time, in no circumstances, be encouraged. The highest standards must always be cultivated and sought among journalists specially so among the more fragile societies in the world.

 

Abdishakur A Essa

United States

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