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Somaliland elections and coverage surprisingly...normal

Voters at a Somaliland polling station on June 26. (Ahmed Kheyre)Critical voices in the East African media—whether in EthiopiaRwandaBurundi, or Uganda—have been intimidated, banned, blocked, and beaten prior to elections in recent years. Somalia is so embroiled in conflict that even the concept of having elections remains a faraway dream. But in late June, the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland in northern Somalia managed to hold relatively peaceful and free elections with decent media coverage, local journalists and election observers told CPJ.

“Given the poor resources and training of the journalists here,” BBC reporter Jamal Abdi told CPJ, “the local media did a remarkably good job covering the elections and polling across Somaliland’s six polling regions.”

Former opposition leader Mohamed Silyano from the Kulmiye Party defeated outgoing president Dahir Riyale, who honored his pre-vote pledge to accept the results and leave office peacefully.

Yet not everything has been rosy. For one, the June 26 elections were postponed three times—they were originally supposed to take place more than two years ago. And throughout the process, local journalists told CPJ, high tensions simmered between the government and the media. In early June, police detained several journalists for a day after they took pictures of former presidential guards attacking opposition party supporters who had displayed an opposition flag, local journalists told CPJ.

Police detained Al-Jazeera reporter Mohammed Adow for two hours prior to the election results after he visited a politically sensitive border area where territorial disputes exist between Somaliland and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, local journalists told CPJ. Security agents also detained independent website Editor Hadis Mohamed, originally from Mogadishu, during the election for “serious crimes” that were never detailed. “I have been arrested seven times over the past few years without any reason ever given or attending court,” Mohamed told CPJ. “Our website, Baadiya, is targeted because we gave equal coverage for the political rally activities wherever possible.”

Local journalists also told CPJ they felt the media’s coverage was politically polarized. The state press was biased toward the former president while the independent press favored the opposition parties. With limited independent media coverage outside the capital, Hargeisa, the state-run Radio Hargeisa (the only station officially allowed to broadcast in Somaliland) provided coverage biased toward Riyale outside the city, the BBC’s Abdi said. Still, the Netherlands-based opposition Radio Horyaal managed to broadcast in remote areas of Somaliland where Radio Hargeisa could not reach, the editor of the private newspaper Heegan, Mohamed Amin, told CPJ.

In comparison to greater Somalia, however, where insurgents banned viewing the World Cup and a near-powerless government continues to arrest journalists for negative coverage, Somaliland’s media scene appears robust. Journalists were allowed to move freely throughout the polling stations without hindrance, Associated Press reporter Mohamed Olad told CPJ.

The public and local press feared violence after two former ruling party officials alleged there had been vote rigging in favor of the opposition in five precincts, Abdi told CPJ. “But I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the offices of Radio Hargeisa,” Abdi said. “I found Radio Hargeisa staff actually complaining that the allegations were false and could lead to post-election violence.” Even Riyale supporters objected to the allegations and the two officials were arrested, Abdi added.

How has Somaliland kept the elections and its media coverage relatively peaceful? “They have learned from example—the bad example of their neighbors,” said Olad, who often reports in the war-torn Somali capital, Mogadishu. Somaliland has become a haven for exiled Mogadishu journalists fleeing the fighting in Somalia, where 33 journalists have been killed for their work since 1993.

Somaliland journalists told me they now hope government and media relations will improve under Silyano. Whereas Riyale was a former intelligence official and wary of the press, Mohamed said, Silyano was more open with the press as an opposition party leader. “But let’s wait and see,” a cautious Amin told me, as opposition leaders often change their spots once they attain power. A once-popular Senegalese opposition leader, Abdoulaye Wade, had promised upon his 2000 presidential election to decriminalize libel laws against the press. A disgruntled local Senegalese press, who had strongly supported his 2000 candidacy, is still waiting. 

(Reporting from Nairobi)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The fifth paragraph has been corrected to clarify that Mohammed Adow was held for two hours and that Hadis Mohamed edits Baadiya.

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Comments

The over - hyped presidential "election" among the isaak clan after all somaliland is ethnic cleansed one-clan based secessionist enclave , It is above all a well-organised show to con the international community for recognition. The "elected" leader Mr Ahmed Silanyo witch is a Isaak is Accused of war crimes and crimes against Humanity committed by him During His term as the leader of the isaak militia known as Somali National Movement(SNM) in the 1980s and 1990s in Somalia,just days ago the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked the 50th anniversary of Somalia's independence on Thursday with a pledge that the U.N. will continue to help the people of Somalia to achieve their dream of peace and unity.

The elections went well for us and has been received warmly throughout the world, from UK to the United States. Properly the two most important nations to Somaliland.

We have had challenges but we will over come this as we have done always.

The next phase is for the U.S. and UK to step up funding and provide material and diplomatic support to our democratic nation.

We will clean up the eastern regions and expand democracy to our neighboring Somalia. We will host all their journalists and tell them to broadcast democratic and freedom messages to their people from Hargeisa. Hargeisa will become a command center for them and we hope the US understands this and supports the initiative.

I am confident Silanyo will improve freedom of the press and will introduce new private radios as well expanding the coverage of radio Hargeisa. By the way, all the equipment for Radio Hargeisa are already in the country but it's unclear why the government did not set up. Last time they were testing it was received in Japan (Radio Hargeisa on 7145kHz, received in Japan), see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMsLbXsY3-M.


Somaliland is right now on the forefront of war of democracy vs radicalism. Many people from Somalia who are combined of clanists, pro Islamists, pro warlords and anarchy did not want this vote to go ahead. While some targeted NEC staff others issued audio messages urging people not to vote because its "evil principles". This is the reality Somaliland is facing. Some have already infiltrated into the eastern clans and soon will need to target them with full force. We hope the American people who also love liberty, freedom, free press, and democracy endorse Somaliland's war on the east and recognition quest.


It was the Darood clan who committed acts of genocide, torture, and rape back in the 1980s; now the Darood clan is committing acts of piracy and terrorim. The SNM was a heroic liberation group fighting for the restoration of peace and democracy in their homeland of present-day Somaliland - to argue that they were the criminals is akin to saying that the Tutsi and moderate-Hutus who were killed in Rwanda in 1994 were the criminals, which is disgusting to say the least. The United States government, as well as many others know that it was the Siad Barre dictatorship with the support of his Darood clan that resulted in the deaths of 50,000 Isaaq civilians, the destruction of the three largest Somaliland cities, Hargeisa, Burco, and Ceerigaabo, and led to the displacement of half a million refugees from Somaliland fleeing their own "president" by escaping to Ethiopia. The recent supreme court ruling in the US will open the door for Isaaq and non-Isaaq victims of the genocide against Somaliland, led by the Siad Barre regime, to finally find justice.

As an aside, the ssc is a terrorist organization, and they murdered a female election official the day of the election as well as stole a few ballots and a car (which were all returned thanks to the quick action of the Somaliland Police.
I voted in the Somaliland elections in my home region of Sanaag, the land of the tomb of Sheikh Isaaq, Sheikh Issa, and Sheikh Gudabursi.

Anyone opposed to Somaliland in favour of Somalia or the pirate enclave of Majerteenia is an enemy of democracy and has no place in the 21st century.

this is very important and i thank the journalists wrote the entire topic. frankly it touches from top bottom of has trully existed the different sides like that of the Siyad arod, the real clans of the seccession of Somaliland, Somalilands democratic ellections latelly took place and how Somalilands contribution is so good to the global growing democracy. I am really sorry the acts of opression of the free press and that they are chailled for the important tasks they perform to the everyone that needs the clearity of every aspects of Sillanyo will make a big and a better change to the free press freedom and the life protection of every journalist through law and regulation amendments and declarations of the human rights violations.
please let also know more on the concept of the free press movement. and i am ready with any support from me personally and i can do more. thanks with best regards.

Ahmed Abdi Ibrahim July 9, 2010 7:01:23 PM ET

david Camaron uk PM said last week terrorisim making foothold in somaliland we will not allow this who are the people PM talking about? he is talking about people calling them salef ssc

Somaliland is peace and dimocaratic country press will work freely under Sillanyo ragim and somaliland well welcome aney jornalist who want work and stays peacefuly.


Majority leads the minority Isaqs make 70% of Somaliland Republic, president Dahir Riyaale Kahin is from the gadabursi which makes 12%
there is also some percentage from pro Somaliland indpendance like Dhulbaahante Warsangeli from the far east,Issa from the far west and others.this is a clear majority.
only few tribal minded linked with Al shabaab radicals, are against Somaliland democracy and stability

Somaliland is a great example of what a well organised and truely decent and civilised nation can do. When the military dictatorship in the country once known as the Somali Republic was ousted in 1991, the whole government infustructure and the social cohesion had all but collabsed thus making it one of the most dangerous hot spots in the world.

As somaliland had in the first place voluntarily united with Somalia soon after its independence in 26 June 1960 from the British, It was left with no choice but to withdraw from the futile union inorder to save itself from the inhumane wholesale destruction and devastating wars and killings engendered and excuted unabatedly by people from within (Somalia) to the present date. Any true and decent person who cares about somali people would appreciate, encourage and congradulate Somaliland for it is great achievemnet and for being a beacon of stability, decency, democracy and hope for all Somali speakers. Finally the success and the achievment of the Somaliland people is far too advanced and complicated to comprehend for all thoes mindless individuals who can not differentiate the wrights from the wrongs and I urge the good people of Somaliland to continue matching on as the end of the dark ages is neigh

Well done somaliland, a great example what most of Africa lacks and what it desperately needs- to change government leaders through the ballot box and not through the barrel of the gun. Every reasonable, sensible and decent person would appreciate and admire what somaliland has done and many other nations might even assimalate the practice and it is ironic that some people like members of the so-called ssc, who claims that they are pro greater Somalia are committed to undermine,stable and democratic Somaliland, the only credible and save country, hitherto part of what was once known the Somali republic which had all but failed and non existant. It is even more surprising that they have the courage to come out times like this and show their narrow mindedness when there is no other alternative for the people of Somaliland but to continue saving themselves from similar bloodshed, myhem, devastation and destruction which continues unabatedly in Somalia.