Somaliland minister for information, Abdirahman Abdullahi Farah ‘Guri-Barwaqo’, on a ministerial decree he signed on Thursday, limited what Somaliland media outlets can cover and what it cannot.
“In accordance with the Somaliland Press Law, No. 27/2004, the media is prohibited to cover issues relating to military matters or are ‘fake’ or ‘imagined’,” the Minister decreed.
The decree further stated that the law will take a stern stand on any outlet which is found to have used defamatory content on a person or persons or has violated their privacy or to has covered ‘secret information concerning armed forces bases’.
The Minister vowed that any infringement on said areas will be dealt with as stipulated by Articles 10 (1,2) and 15 of the Law, which state, respectively:
Article 10: Complying with the Press Law: 1. Every press shall have the duty to ensure that the press products it circulates are based on the truth and are balanced.
Article 15: Privacy: Trespassing; investigating matters of a personal nature without consent and with the use of telephoto lens to take pictures, without consent, of persons in private homes, shall only be permitted if it can be proved or reasonably known that these measures are aimed at protecting the public interest.
The Minister’s Decree critics faulted because, mainly, of two reasons: (a) it is based on a scantily deliberated, old law that does not adequately define any of its provisos; (b) that the government is paving the way for a kind of police state where its interpretation of any coverage can land anyone in trouble to bring the relative ‘independence’ of a vibrant Somaliland media sector to a grinding, fear-shrouded halt.
Of course, the government, it is understood, will put the slightest criticism against it or its officers under the biggest magnifying glass to discover all possible interpretations to qualify it an ‘offense’ the actual objective behind the decree.
This comes at a time the ministry of information is busy on the installation of what it calls ‘security measures’, including CCTV cameras and walk-through sensor gates, despite the fact that FM radio stations of Burao and Erigavo were off the air for months now, suffering the same fate as the Radio’s Shortwave broadcast. The last, especially, left all Somalilanders across the regions, including army and security branches, under the mercy of Somalia stations spouting anti-Somaliland propaganda.