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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid