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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs