News / Africa

Somalia's Media Revival Means Braving Old Dangers

FILE - Somali journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur (R) talks to reporters after the high court freed him in the capital of Mogadishu, March 17, 2013.
FILE - Somali journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur (R) talks to reporters after the high court freed him in the capital of Mogadishu, March 17, 2013.
Reuters
— Experience has taught Somali journalist Mohamed Hassan how to spot a suicide bomber, which neighborhoods to avoid and how to cope with the loss of colleagues - his own brother was killed.

Although Islamist militias were driven from Mogadishu about two years ago and media are flourishing as never before, those lessons are just as relevant in what is one of the world's most dangerous cities for journalists or anyone else.

“Reporters can freely cover the daily mood,” radio journalist Hassan told Reuters. “Still, for journalists, there are no-go areas. And we cannot avoid explosions.”

In more than two decades of conflict, last year was the deadliest on record for journalists in Somalia, with 18 killed, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists.

It blames lax security during a year of political transition, when Islamist militants carried out revenge attacks after their al-Shabaab fighters were driven out by African peacekeepers.

Journalists have been among the victims since Somalia descended into war in the early 1990s. Three Reuters journalists were lynched by Somalis in 1993 as they covered an ill-fated U.S. intervention.

There is no clear record of how many have been killed in the past two decades, but the union of journalists said the death toll since 2005 was 50. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have died during two decades of war, anarchy and famine.

The continuing dangers have not deterred Somali journalists as al-Shabaab's departure has spurred a media revival.

Media rebirth occurs

Mogadishu's residents now have a choice of about six daily newspapers, nine television channels and 23 radio stations. Those are double the numbers that were around when al-Shabaab held power. Radio stations that operated then often did so from outside Islamist held areas.

Somalis now listen to shows on issues ranging from sport to personal relationships, topics banned under the codes of al-Shabaab.

Journalists write openly about divisions within the ranks of al-Shabaab and even hint - cautiously - at rifts over policy within the new government.

“They're kind of reinventing themselves based on what they see on satellite television - their standards, their approach, grafted onto Somali society,” said Andy Hill, a former Reuters journalist. He was in Mogadishu in 1993 when his colleagues were killed, and he now trains Somali journalists.

Hassan feels the difference.

Six years ago, Islamists stormed his radio station and ordered him to broadcast a call for Jihad against the government of the time. The choice was almost certain death if he refused or the government's wrath if it was played. He aired it.

“I was like a lump of meat roasted on both sides,” he said.

Hassan's brother, Farah Hassan, a radio journalist, was shot in 2011 by unidentified snipers when African peacekeeping forces were driving al -Shabaab out of Mogadishu. He had stayed back in the radio station to work during the fighting.

Growing business

As the turmoil has abated, the number of journalists in Mogadishu has grown. There are now about 300 journalists in Mogadishu compared to about 100 in 2007, according to the union.

“A free press gives citizens pride in their country, creates a spirit of involvement and a desire for education that uplifts everyone,” said Kathy Eldon, mother of Reuters photographer Dan Eldon, who was killed in Somalia in 1993.

She now campaigns to help others around the world use the media to highlight humanitarian and other issues, as her son did.

Eldon was killed on July 12, 1993 with Hos Maina and Anthony Maina, both of Reuters, and Hansi Kraus, of the Associated Press, when a mob took revenge after a U.S. helicopter gunship attacked a compound of Somali warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed. Dozens of Somalis were killed in the U.S. strike.

Somalia is still a fractured state where the new federal government has limited control beyond the boundaries of Mogadishu. Islamist militants, who control swathes of countryside, still carry out bombings and shootings in the capital.

Underlining the continuing threat to the media, a television journalist was shot dead on July 7 by unknown assailants in Somalia's Puntland region. They fired four to six bullets into his body, the journalists' union said.

“I have my own special measures to protect myself,” said 27-year-old freelance journalist Abdalle Mumin, who is particularly cautious about when and where he ventures out.

“It's a tough place to be a journalist,” he said.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid