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Time To Backdown Mr. President
It is a normal practice for dictators to hate the free press which is always committed to update the public with the truth. Such leaders are in power in many countries of Africa and Asia. One of the main reasons they hate the free press is it discloses information about matters like corruption and abuse of power which they love to conceal form their ordinary people.
Somaliland is currently going through a similar crises as the President remains defiant in the wake of increasing public pressure to free journalists arrested after publishing wide spread corruption allegations involving the president’s immediate family and senior cabinet ministers.
The nation was shocked when heavily armed police seized the Head quarters of the country’s leading newspaper, destroying equipment and arresting its Chairman and chief Editor. The paper’s Awdal correspondent was also arrested days later and transferred to join his bosses at the CID Head Quarters in the capital Hargeisa.
It is obvious that the government has miscalculated the consequences of this action which can have grave effect on Somaliland’s reputation in the eyes of the international community which immediately demanded the release of the journalists and respect of the civil liberty in the country.
This breach of the civil rights of key personalities in media puts a question mark on the leadership skills and Commitment of the president to the fundamental basis of democracy. Media people can not be treated like this in a democracy. The only beneficiary in this case is the enemy of Somaliland.
As we all know, one of Somaliland’s success stories in the eyes of the world was its tolerance of the press which enjoyed a great deal of freedom since the re-birth of this nation in 1991. This however, looks like a thing of the past as the incumbent president Dahir Rayale who seems to have chosen a different approach by ordering a police crack down on a leading newspaper which published allegations of power abuse and corruption involving the president’s household. Authoring the use of excessive force and oppressive tactics including illegal detention for long periods without charge was a genuine breach of constitutional rights of these citizens.
This is a gross violation of the basic civil rights of the people involved and blatant breach of the national constitution. Their continued incarceration will only add to the diminishing support of this government.
The President must learn to live with the free press which is a fact he can not deny in this current age. He needs to understand that the press has a responsibility towards the public which is to feed them with the current news and issues. If he is offended by the publication of the alleged corruption of his household, he could have gone through the proper channel by filing a civil case against the newspaper.
The press is a friend of the good governments as it helps to pinpoint their existing shortcomings and weaknesses. This helps them to improve and address such shortcomings and weaknesses.
It is also the enemy of the bad governments as it helps to uncover their scandals and abuse of power that dishonest bosses try to conceal from the public helping their downfall.
In the current context, I believe the Somaliland government matches the latter description and engaged itself in lost war because we are in the Information technology era and if they try to silence local newspapers, there are other options easily available.
A word to the Parliament
I understand that you have a lot in your Agenda but as the legislative body elected to ensure that the national charter is properly implemented and strictly adhered to by the executive branch, you have a duty to act quickly and:
The freedom loving people of this nation around the globe are annoyed by the recent events and are concerned about the damage this may do to our international image and reputation. We expect a swift action from the people we elected to uphold the law.
A note to the president
As the nation’s President, it is your responsibility to uphold the law in all conditions. Recent events could be nerve testing for you and your leadership skills, your current position as the president of the nation puts you in forefront stage for public criticism, whether these are correct or not, you need to handle them wisely and with great care. Presidential press releases like the one two weeks ago will only add fuel to the fire. I suggest to you to backdown and allow the rule of law to prevail as any other course will extremely damage your own image and that of Somaliland interior and Justice Ministry institutions. Your influence in these institutions was obvious from their behavior in handling this case.
Finally, it the right of every citizen including you and the journalists to be treated with fairness and dignity, this is not the case with these journalists who did not commit a criminal offence, they can only be put behind bars if they are proven guilty in front of a civilian court. Until then, their freedom must be unconditionally returned to them with immediate effect.