Somalia: Media law in the absence of a state

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Abstract:

Somalia is often described as ‘lawless’ or ‘the world’s most failed state’, a characterization that overlooks the way law and governance actually works in the absence of a capable central government. This article will explore the role of xeer law, or customary law, in regulating media, including both older media, such as poetry, and newer media, such as mobile phones, in Somalia’s complex legal environment. While Somalia remains one of the most dangerous regions of the world for journalists, dozens of radio stations are broadcasting in South-Central Somalia and there is a competitive newspaper industry in Somaliland. In addition, the telecoms industry is booming with some of the best connections and lowest rates on the continent for the internet and mobile phones. Various authorities govern media and resolve conflicts across the Somali territories. To understand media ‘law’ in this region we must look beyond the formal state structures.

Keywords: ICTs; Somalia; customary law; hybrid governance; libel; media and conflict; media and governance; slander; xeer law

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/macp.8.2-3.159_1

Affiliations: University of Oxford

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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  • The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics is committed to analyzing the politics of communication(s) and cultural processes. It addresses cultural politics in their local, international and global dimensions, recognizing equally the importance of issues defined by their specific cultural geography and those that traverse cultures and nations.
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