MOGADISHU — They are 17, 18, 20 years old. They are journalists in Mogadishu, one of the most dangerous places in the world for reporters. At Radio Shabelle, the biggest station in Somalia, most of the journalists are young and don't have much experience, but they are devoted and passionate, despite being targets of the terrorist group al-Shabab.
Kept like a fortress, this building is the headquarters of Radio Shabelle. It is here, in Mogadishu, that Hidaya Abdullahi Sabriye comes to work every day. She is only 17, but she already has been a journalist for two years. She said her job is her passion.
"I decided to become a journalist first because I liked it. And also because I felt the community needed journalists to report on what is happening," she said. "I believed that, with the crisis that Somalia faces, you need independent journalists who help the people by reporting well on what is happening."
Sabriye is one of the voices heard every morning on the radio. At Radio Shabelle, most of the journalists are young adults, or even teenagers. Somalia is rebuilding, and the media is growing. Journalism is one of the rare sectors that offers job opportunities to young people without a school degree or political connections, according to Radio Shabelle founder and director Abdi Uud.
"The media won't get better as long as Shabab is here and journalists remain a target and they keep shooting the messengers, which are the eyes and the ears of the people. It can be discouraging. I'm surprised and happy to see that the number of media is increasing, Uud said. "The media schools are increasing, and the number of journalists are increasing. Young people are joining. So that brings hope in the future of journalism in Somalia."
A lot of journalists at Radio Shabelle live within the radio's premises. On the roof are dorms where those who are too scared to go back home can sleep. Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Last year, at least 18 of them were murdered, and six this year so far. At Radio Shabelle, these young reporters are conscious of risking their life. They don't often go into the field, and when they do, it's only with tight security, said reporter Hassan Sheik Abukhar.
"This is a dangerous job because we can't go anywhere. We can't see our families or attend any program because our security is not good. No one can promise you that you will come back to the station safe," said Abukhar.
But the desire to inform and to acquire professional experience makes them stay. A new measure could, however, exclude these youngsters from the studio. Last month, the Somali government adopted a controversial law that forbids every person under the age of 40 from practicing journalism.