Social media ban and professional elections coverage in Somaliland

By Khaled Ismail Abdi, IMS-Fojo Programme Manager, Somaliland

Voters will be going to the polls on November 13, 2017 to elect the President of Somaliland a former British Protectorate that is internationally unrecognized since it declared independence from Somalia in 1991. One-person-one-vote elections have been conducted peacefully in Somaliland a total of five times. (two Presidential elections, two local city council elections and one Parliamentary election) By all accounts, those elections have greatly contributed to Somaliland’s development into a stable, functioning democracy.

Somaliland’s local media will play a key role in monitoring the electoral process in this Presidential election, in which more than 700,00 people have been registered through iris -based biometric voter registration. Media will also be crucial in helping to avoid inciting hatred and spreading propaganda in a region that is prone to conflict and violence. as a special measure to counter fake news, authorties have banned usage of social media platforms until the election results have been declared. a move protested by IMS-Fojo partner Human Rights Center.

This require media professionals able to provide professional coverage. International Media Support (IMS) and Fojo, which have an office in Somaliland’s capital Hargeysa, have developed guidelines for professional election reporting in both Somali and English. These guidelines are designed to be used by journalists covering the Somaliland elections and has been developed with due consideration to the local context.

Ahead of the elections IMS-Fojo has trained 80 media decision makers such as editors, sub-editors, producers and key reporters and ensured awareness on not only the professional election reporting guidelines, but also the Somaliland Media Code of Conduct for elections and Somaliland Electoral laws. The Somaliland Journalist Association, a key local partner in Somaliland, have also trained 125 journalists – and with five hundred hard copies of the Somali language guidelines distributed to journalists, it is hoped that media will be able to better contribute in a positive way to the political debate.

IMS-Fojo provide continuous support to Human Rights Centre (HRC), a local partner, in monitoring media violations in Somaliland and has encouraged HRC to establish a working group of local human rights organizations to ensure the protection of human rights and promotions of freedom of media during the elections.

Recognizing the need for all stakeholders to understand the role of media in the electoral process, IMS-Fojo has supported Institute for Practical Research and Training (IPRT), another local partner, in bringing together media, civil society organisations, political parties and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to discus the importance of professional media conduct.