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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid