Analysis of the Draft law on Freedom of Press of Somaliland

Somaliland Press freedom

By:Ibrahim Khadar


Traditionally, Media is the fourth power of the state. Media raises the voice of the voiceless community to enjoy their fundamental rights. It is also double „edge sword‟, because it can be an instrument of development or it can be a dangerous instrument of violence if it propagates messages of disinformation that manipulate and influence public sentiment. So, regulating it in a standard way without violating or hardly restricting freedom of expression is important. However, Somaliland Media took part the different stages of state-building such as peace-building, clannish rebels disarmament, and promoting of democracy. It has its bases on the constitution, but in the last decades there have been a debates about media regulation, particularly establishing a law which regulates media and press-family behaviors. There are different opposing argument between media plus Civil Society organizations (CSOs) and government, on the way of regulating media outlets. So, this brief paper will try to analyze the new project on the modification of the press act (Law no 27/2004). The paper will focus on the scope of the act, National Media Council‟s structure and independence,Type of the media proclaimed in the bill, Registration or licensing procedure, rights, duties and code of conduct in the bill and limitation of the media service. Lastly the paper will give recommendations to the concerning institution.


Freedom of expression is very important in the democratic and open society. It contains the right to access and obtain information and it is fundamental human rights, central to achieving all human rights both individual freedoms and collective rights. Human rights increase public awareness, knowledge and provides an ability to participate decision affecting their daily lives and it can secure checks on state accountability, transparency and thus helps to prevent the corruption that thrives on secrecy and closed political environment.1

Freedom of expression plus freedom of media is protected under international and regional instrument of human rights. Both UDHR2 and ICCPR3 protect freedom of expression under article 19; rights protected in this international instruments including the right to hold opinion without interference, to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.

Regionally, The African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples‟ Rights also protects freedom of expression under article 9 which promulgates that every individual shall have the right to receive information and also shall have the right to express and disseminate his/her opinions within the law.

Thus, the question would come is „Somaliland international recognition‟ in the application of international instruments, because they need the jure approach. Although, Somaliland is a de facto state, but article 10 (2) of its constitution states the it recognizes and shall act in conformity with the UN Charter and with international law such as the Universal Declaration of Human rights. So this constitutional clause imposes state responsibilities on the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression.

Apart from the international, regional and constitutional protection of freedom of the press, Somaliland media (after 1991) rapidly increases and pass through different progress and challenges.

After the stage of Somaliland constitutional designing and referendum (2001), the freedom of expression has its base in the constitution. Article 32 of the constitution protects freedom of demonstration, expression of opinion, press and other media, including that individual can express his/her opinion orally, visually, artistically or in writing or in any other way and people can organize in any peaceful assembly or demonstration. The constitution prohibits any act to subjugate freedom of expression4. We can argue that the constitution uniquely protects freedom of expression, because it does not limit only writing or broadcasting, but it also includes artistic expression such as drawing and peaceful demonstration.

Although, Somaliland media outlet progressively improves the technological aspect and a number, but there are a number of factors and challenges faced the media such as inadequate training programs plus legal and policies which are to some extent become the major problems that are currently facing the media.5 The issues of press law become political debate and it causes sensational arguments between government and media professionals plus CSOs. The main argument arises the independent regulatory body which unites all types of media, because the government wants to control and interfere the council, while the media itself wants to have the upper-hand of the council, but the fact is that there is a need to establish a competent press council that is effective and efficient and should establish under the press law in a clear language set of normative standards for the ethical and professional reporting.6

To come to the point, there are a concern and debates about the Somaliland press law (law no 72/2004), because the government and its proponents argue that this law have no any penalties and need different amendments, while media professionals and freedom of expression activists are lobbying law which decriminalize media professions. Recently, the government starts to initiate new media law, although it argues that the proposal is not to initiate new law, but is to amend and improve the previous press act. This paper is mainly about the doctrinal approach it examines press law and it also refers international related laws and academic article. The paper will analyze the new press law, particularly as it will focus on the scope of the law, press council‟s independence, limitation of media and penalty provisions. The paper will also give recommendations about the legal annals.

Click here more –Paper Analysis of the Draft law on Freedom of Press of Somaliland

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