The Role of the Media in the Upcoming Somaliland Elections: Lessons from Kenya

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Stremlau, Nicole
Blanchard, Metthew
Gabobe, Yusuf Abdi
Ahmed, Farhan Ali

This report explores issues of media policy during post-election violence. We examine the case of Kenya, where 1,133 people were killed after the 2007 elections, to distill lessons for Somaliland’s upcoming elections. There are indications the elections in Somaliland will be highly contentious and that the media will have an important role in either exacerbating or alleviating political violence. Indeed this has already been the case. The much-anticipated presidential election has been postponed for over a year and escalating tensions between the government, opposition parties and the population suggest real potential for election-related violence.The media has emerged as a major player in mediating the current political impasse over election registration. And at the same time there have been concerns from both the opposition and government that respectively aligned media are provoking current tensions. The intended audience for this report is journalists and policymakers in Somaliland as well as concerned international observers. We also expect that the issues drawn out here will be relevant for other countries in the region that are grappling with upcoming elections that have the potential of being highly contentious. This report makes a number of recommendations for media policies. Depending on when the election will be held, we recognize that it is unrealistic for these to be implemented prior to voting day but we believe it is important, especially in the interest of developing sound institutions, to discuss the issues and debate potential scenarios and interventions. This study is part of a larger project on media and information flows in Somaliland. We have conducted extensive research and organized the drafting of a code of conduct for journalists for the election period and legislation for the allocation of broadcasting time for the state media. From our experience, one of the most valuable outcomes of this effort is an inclusive discussion with stakeholders, and the negotiation of values and priorities during this process.

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