Saturday, October 09, 2010

Suspending Universal TV turns more light on Somaliland

By Bashir Goth

The suspension of the popular Universal TV by Somaliland Minister of Information is a classic example of an outsider eagerly yearning to close the door behind him once he entered his coveted palace. Abdillahi Geeljire was barking loud a long time from the outside of the government palace, dreaming one day that his barking would be rewarded. Now, that his dream has come true and that his thirst for power has been satisfied, he wants to close the door behind him. How can he allow anyone else snarl at him or at his government?

It is an irony of sorts that Abdillahi Geeljire has been given his cabinet post as a reward for the caustic and biased propaganda that he used to write against Rayale’s government. People say that he used to be close to former President Rayale and when things went awry between them, he decided to wage a smear campaign against the previous government under the guise of being an opposition.

But now he feels the heat and because he knows the power of the media as it served him well, he is panicking that the same weapon might be used to unseat him and his government. This is why he has no qualms about kicking the ladder that brought him to the top lest others use it for the same purpose.

His accusation of Universal TV that it was harming the national interest is also another cliché often used by dictators and chicken-hearted politicians who don’t like anyone turning the light on the little things they do in the dark.

One thing that Mr. Geeljire is not aware of or maybe he is but decides to ignore is that using the false cloak of defending the national interest in axing and silencing the media is laughable to say the least. This is the language of yesteryears when the innocent masses were doped and enslaved on empty slogans. In the age of the internet and 24/hour news, only an un-savvy stooge would marshal such a feeble justification to gag a media channel.

Another fact that Mr. Geeljire and his ilk have to know is that a voice suppressed is always more powerful than a voice expressed; simply because once emotions are expressed they are ventilated, easing up tensions, but once you suppress emotions and opinions, they build up until they explode. So if Universal TV says little unfavorable things about Somaliland and your government, let it go because that is the safety valve for the simmering anger of the people. It purifies the air, mitigates the swelling anger, and makes the government eyes even sharper to see a little bit of reality.

It was Thomas Jefferson who once said "The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure."

It is through this spirit that even the American President couldn’t do anything when some idiotic person announced that he would burn the holy Quran even to the disgust and derision of the government and the public at large and the grave damage that this person’s action would have done to the American national interest. But freedom of speech is enshrined in the American constitution as the First Amendment and no one even the president can stop anyone from exercising their right to express their opinion freely.

The First Amendment is a beautiful and powerful statement that guarantees citizens their inalienable rights to speak their mind. It is a piece that empowers the individual and humbles the president and the government; a piece that you need not only to read and reread, Mr. Minister, but one that you have to hang it up in your office to remind yourself and all your visitors how much you care about the freedom of speech and how much you aspire to see Somaliland to have such values enshrined in its constitution.

In my opinion and maybe many others, being hostile to the media never brings positive results. On the contrary it results only in damaging the country’s reputation and portraying its democracy as a joke. Remember, it was the tide of the media that brought your party to the government seat. We can therefore tolerate if you buy some reporters and broadcasters as your employees as you already did, but we cannot allow you to get away with a wholesale emasculation of the media. Remember even Queen Arrawelo couldn’t get away with such action and instead of one Oday Biiqe and one Ilyuub watching over her actions, we have today many Oday Biiqe’s and hundreds of Ilyuubs watching over your actions and that of your government. Therefore, suspending TV stations and banning newspapers will only heighten our watchful vigil and incite us more to turn many more lights on your impropriety.