Although the organization’s effectiveness has been questioned in the past, and many of its former chairmen have moved on to high-level government positions, it has nonetheless been focal in its opposition to the arbitrary detention of journalists and issues detrimental to freedom of speech.
The outgoing chairman Mr. Mohamoud Abdi Jama (Huto) is a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
In addition, SOLJA has strongly condemned Minister Kore’s actions in shutting down two television stations for failure to carry a live broadcast of the June 26th Independence Day festivities at the Presidential Palace.
The TV stations have since been fined and reinstated.
The general assembly of SOLJA where the new leadership was elected saw a boycott by a large number of journalists who condemned the process as rigged, and have stated that they will establish a new umbrella that represents all journalists.
This is not the only effort by the Somaliland government and Minister Kore to bring the media under government control.
In 2020, the Ministry of Information and National Guidance spent nearly US$70,000 US dollars on various outlets for what it calls “defending Somaliland’s interests on social media“.
The bulk of the funds went to a few individuals and media outlets include Qaran News, Oodweyne News among others.
Minister Kore declined to comment on the nature of the payments to these individuals and media outlets.
Repeated calls to reach Mr. Kore were unsuccessful.
It is unclear if SOLJA, under its current leadership, will be able to advocate for Somaliland media professionals when retained by the government, effectively putting them on a collision course with their employer, but a counter-argument by reporters who support the new leadership online points to the fact that the organization’s charter does not preclude government employees from leading the organization and that the Ministry of Information and National Guidance employs the most journalists in Somaliland.
Although successive Somaliland governments have cracked down on journalists, media freedom under President Bihi has been in steep decline, and the current Minister of Information and National Guidance Mr. Kore has been one of the most draconian in stifling free media – with the usurpation of SOLJA into government control possibly signaling a desire to extinguish independent media and muzzle critical coverage of its activities.
This article first appeared in the Somaliland Chronicle and is republished with permission.