Back to school for Somalia’s journalists?

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After more than two decades without any regulations, Somalia’s media is now bound by a new law which could put many journalists out of a job.

It stipulates that they must all have a university degree in journalism – and also pass a government test when they register with the media commission, which will soon be set up.

Some feel this is far too harsh a regulation given that during the anarchy of the long civil war, no universities offered journalism qualifications.

A university specialising in media has been established as the country emerges from years of conflict, but its students will not graduate until at least 2018.

And one-year journalism master courses are not yet available.

“We could all be put in jail for being illegal journalists in Somalia,” one colleague in the capital, Mogadishu, said.

Abdirizack Jama Elmi, a journalist working for a Somali Channel, lays wounded in hospital
Image Copyright AFP/Getty                                                                                              Image Caption: Somalia’s Journalists face danger reporting – some argue this means they must be better-qualified.

 

The new regulations fail to take into account the years of experience a journalist may have on reporting on Somalia’s complicated clan-based and religious violence.
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However, others believe that given the danger of reporting in Somalia, journalists should be well qualified.

According to the global media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists, 59 journalists have been killed in Somalia since 1992 – three last year.


More on the dangers of reporting in Somalia:


The law was drawn up in consultation with those involved in the media at home and in the diaspora, and is an attempt to tame web and social media content – some of which has been libellous or based on unverified information.

Anyone can set up a website and claim to be a journalist.

‘Spreading lies’

In some cases, stories have been published in order to blackmail public figures and businessmen and other members of the public.

There will now a fine of between $1,000 (£700) and $3,000 for anyone found guilty of libel.

Though some question whether this will work as a deterrent given the large sums some are believed to extort.

There are more than 1,000 websites operated by Somalis in the diaspora – and the new media law will affect them too.

Some of them have representatives in the capital – and the authorities will have the authority to block sites that fall foul of the law.

Other aspects of the media act, which came into effect this week, have been welcomed, including the section on freedom of speech.

It says the media, including government-owned radio, television and websites, cannot be censored.

Friends and relatives carry the coffin of Abdisatar Daher Sabriye, a well known journalist with state-run television who died in September 2012 in Mogadishu, Somalia
Image copyright: AP      Image caption: Journalist Abdisata Dahir Sabriye was killed in a suicide attack in 2012 on a Mogadishu cafe frequented by the press, leading many to speculate that journalists were targeted

But it warns against spreading lies and encouraging ethnic and clan rivalry.

The media commission will include three members from the government media stations, three from the private media and three from human rights organisations as well as representatives from women’s groups and the Lawyers’ Council.

The most contentious part of the law may end up being the regulation that all households with a television will have to pay for a TV licence.

The ministry of finance will set the price, yet to be announced – and everyone with a TV will have to register with the information ministry and media commission.

It is not clear how this will be enforced, and it may not be a huge revenue earner for the UN-backed government in the short term.

Televisions are mainly found in hotels and in a few thousand households, some of which are in areas the government does not control.
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Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Hargeisa

shakespear1The first International theatrical play opens in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland.

It is Hamlet, one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor. The play will be performed by actors from UK-based Globe Theatre who are on a world tour.

shakespear2Around 17 members of Globe Theatre have become the first to visit a Somali speaking city. But why Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland which declared itself  independent from Somalia in 1991 and is yet to be internationally recognised? Dominic Dromgoole is the Director of the London based Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

“Because, we are taking a tour of Hamlet to every Country in the world and we already have travelled to 71 countries. And at the moment we are travelling to Africa and we had played in Many Countries, we’ve just been to Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti and now we are here in Hargeisa”. Domnic Dromgoole.

shakespear3Hamlet is thought to be one the greatest plays of Shakespeare and is performed by a young man who is very troubled and has dreams of a different sort of future.   So how is it relevant to an African audience? Here is Dominic Dromgoole again

 “I think it is different in every country, but I think that Hamlet is somebody who is discontented in his own time and who is looking to the future. I think everywhere, whether we are in South America or Europe or Africa, (you know), there are people who are dreaming of a new future and I think that Hamlet speaks for them.” Dominic Dromgoole.

The play appears to be symbolic of the hopes and aspirations of Somaliland, which is still waiting, or dreaming even  of recognition by the United Nations as a country in its own right. Perhaps that is why Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been warmly welcomed by Hargeisa residents. However, what is not yet known is if many of them would be able to comprehend the gist of the play which will all be performed in English.

Zakariya renounces al-Shabab

zakariya

The top militant of Somalia’s al-Shabab, Zakariya Ahmed Ismail Hersi who gave himself up at the end of December, 2014, has today said he is no longer with the group and renounced violence at a press conference in Mogadishu. Somali government has welcomed what it called Zaki’s rejection of al-Shabab ideology. Abdirahman Koronto reports.

Zakariya has been in government hands since his abandonment of al-Shabab. He had not been seen publicly ever since. It is after a month now, that he appeared at Somali information Ministry in a Press conference. He made the following statement:

“I declare from today on I am not a member of al-Shabab. I will convey my views and ideas through peaceful means and reasoning. I have abandoned the use of violence and solving problem with the barrel of the gun …I call on and encourage my former friends in al-Shabab to come to their senses and allow reconciliation and use peaceful means because the movement is now in disarray and on its way to destruction.” Zakariya.

Al-Shabab has denied that Zakariya had been their member for the last two years. The group said for years he had been cooperating with foreign intelligence after running away from them.

The former senior al-Shabab intelligence officer, has said that he is a living proof that Somali government does honour the amnesty extended to those who renounce violence and terrorism. It is not clear if this can be taken for granted as he is still in the hands of Somali Government’s security Agency and it was under high security presence that he gave his statement.

 

Mustaf dhuhulow

 Immediately after Zakariya’s press conference. The Out-going Information Minister Mustaf Dhuhulow, has said that “ the Information ministry is welcoming the statement by Zakariya in which he rejected the wrong ideology of al-Shabab and his reception of peace. We hope his heroic step will attract more al-Shabab members to join him in peace and reconciliation.” Mustaf Dhuhulow

Mr Hersi had been an important senior figure in al-Shabab’s Intelligence wing. And in June 2012, the US promised $3m for any information leading to his arrest.

His departure from al-Shabab came about four months since its leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in a US air Strike.

The fact that Somali government is using Zakariya to draw in more al-Shabab operatives to give up and renounce violence may mean that the government is willing to extend its amnesty on Zakariya. However, it has not been clear in either statements that he is a free man now. Unofficial sources in the government have told the BBC that they working on ways of removing him from the US’s list of terror and the reward money on his arrest.

From Montreal actress to Djibouti film Director

 LismDhalinyaro, is the name of a new feature film which is under production in Djibouti directed by the first Djibouti’s first female director of conventional films.

The director of this film, Lula Ali Ismail’s says the film depicts the life of three young girls transitioning from Intermediate school to Secondary School.

“this is the time  during the adolescence in Djibouti when young people face the stressful period  of reaching a decision that could be life changing.”  said Lula Ali Ismael.

She is planning to make factual films based on real people and real stories. However, she might be forced to dramatise a bit and not completely move away from fiction.

The film Dhalinyaro will receive funding from Lula’s current home country, Canada, together with her original home country Djibouti and France plus Senegal and the OIF (International Organisation of the Francophone). These countries and other investors are to provide the film’s budget estimated to be over one million dollars.

The Canadian-Djiboutian director has been encouraged by the success she made in producing her first film which she not only directed but also co-stared together with two other Djiboutian females. The short film LAAN came out of Lula’s adventure and desire to switch from her acting training in Montreal Canada after being regularly kept  aside and only given undesirable roles.

“I was only given despicable roles such as being an important background actor, the maid, the street girl etc. I decided to impact on directing films of my own and that is how I ended up in directing Films in Djibouti acted by real Djiboutian actors”. Said Lula Ismail.

It is directed by Lula Ali is  a young Djibouti young women who permanently resides in Montreal Canada. She went to acting school in order to address her shyness which she thought was not out-going and the shyness was hinderance to realize her dreams.

LAAN, LULA’s Short Film on

LaanFilm

The short film LAAN is one of the first tri-lingual films that Djibouti has ever produced in recent years. In addition to the Somali and French language spoken by the actors within the film, there is also English language subtitling for non-speakers of those two languages.

The short film has addressed a subject that is considered to be a taboo to talk about. It is the Khat (green leaves chewed for stimulation) which had been traditionally consumed in Djibouti for centuries.

For Djibouti and Lula, this is embarking on a new road for a country now stretching itself to test its potential with major developments on the move including over 9 billion US dollar investment on several ports, roads and railway lines.

Lula told me she dreams of a future where Djibouti develops a high stander film industry and at least to be part of founders of such industry which is now under-developed in Djibouti, a country that has a population of less than a million.

 

Somali Journalists and a rape victim in custody for reporting an alleged rape

The chief Judge of Banadir Regional Court, Hashi Elmi Nure ordered the two reporters and a radio director to be remanded in jail after being charged with defamation.

They are the director of Radio Shabelle, Abdimalik Yusuf, a reporter with the same media, Mohamed Bashir and the alleged female rape victim from another UN funded radio station in Mogadishu.

The director and the reporter of Shabelle are accused of fabricating a rape case with the female reporter who alleged that the government owned radio reporters raped her about six months ago.

A video surfaced on YouTube of the victim’s anecdote on alleged rape incident. The Shabelle reporter Mohamed Bashir can be heard in the video asking questions.

The alleged rapists filed a law suit saying that the incident is fabricated in order to defame them. The government reporters were not arrested.

The journalists were brought to court after almost a week in custody without charge.

UN Special representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay warned in a statement that “legal representation, proper investigation and media freedom (are) important issues.”

Somali presidential spokesman, Abdirahman Omar Osman said in a statement, “Somali has an independent judiciary and we must allow the police and judiciary to carry out their investigations. It is inappropriate for the government to get involved in the judicial process, as it is any other country.”

The issue is further complicated by the fact that radio Shabelle was closed after a raid by the government security forces who confiscated the station’s equipment accusing them to have been illegally occupying a government building.

Shabelle said in a statement they were never give enough notice to move out of the building.

In February this year, a Somali journalist and alleged rape victim he interviewed were both sentenced to a year in prison after being found guilty of “offending state institutions”.

But, the two were released after an international condemnation of the way the government treated the journalist.

US Attacks in Somalia

The American Secretary of State, John Kerry has said that the US Special Forces raids on Libya and Somalia demonstrate Washington’s determination to hunt down those responsible for acts of terrorism. On Saturday, US Navy commandos attacked a house in Somalia used al-Shabaab leaders. The group is linked to the attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya. This is piece is a look back of US attacks in Somalia.

The raids come one day after the twentieth anniversary of the fighting in Mogadishu that became known as ‘Black Hawk Down’ which I witnessed myself as a Mogadishu resident in 1993.

The fighting which involved US elite troops from various divisions against the fighters of a former General turned warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed resulted in the death of 19 US Soldiers plus an unknown number of Somalis. At least hundreds, were killed in a fighting that continued for almost 24 hours which later involved several nations from the UNISOM mission in Somalia.

There are unconfirmed reports that US troops were on the ground in a fire fight near the Somali border with Kenya allegedly taking part in the Ethiopian operation in Somalia which ousted the then relatively powerful Union of Islamic Courts. The courts defeated Somalia’s warlords and captured large parts of South Central Somalia in 2006.

The second direct US attack in Somalia was the missile attack that wounded Adan Ayrow in 2007, but  killed him in a further missile attack after a year, on May 2008. Adan Ayrow was the most senior Al-Shabab leader in Somalia at the time. He was trained in Afghanistan and was directly linked to Al-Qaeda.

In 2009, US Navy SEAL killed a Kenyan-born Al-Qaeda operative near the coastal town of Barawa using helicopter gunships. And this Saturday’s raid which comes two weeks after Westgate attack appears to be targeting the current Al-Shabab leader, Mukhtar Abu-zubeyr, real name Ahmed Godane. The house targeted in this raid was alleged used by him.

Many in Somalia believe America, still haunted by the incident in 1993, may be on a revengeful mission but, the US says it is determined to hold accountable those who conduct acts of terrorism and members of al-Qaeda. In the words of US Secretary of State, ‘they can run but they can’t hide’. It is increasing becoming clear that the US will continue to stage the targeted raids on terror-linked groups around the world in accordance with its declared war on terror.

Foreign troops attack Barawa, a coastal town in Somalia

One militant fighter was killed in an attack on Somali coastal town of Brawa, a stronghold of al-Shabab. The group said their base was attacked by western troops who came with speedboats before Dawn. Witnesses said they could hear heavy gunfire and an explosion.

The coastal town raid comes at exactly two weeks after a shopping Mall attack in Kenya where 67 people were killed. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility of that attack.

However, it is not clear if there is a direct linkage between the two incidents, and there is not claim of responsibility.

According to Reuters, British and Turkish special forces had raided Brawa killing a fighter and added the attackers themselves lost a British officer.

British and Turkish sources separately denied any involvement.

Somali government spokesman told us they could not comment as they are still gathering information. Barawa town had been the stronghold of al-Shabab for many years. It is the second foreign attack around Barawa town since 2009.

In September that year, US Navy Commandos helicopters killed a Kenyan–born al-Qaeda commander Saleh Ali Nabhan. At the time he was one of three most wanted individuals said to be in Somalia and working with al-Shabab. The group’s spokesman Abdi-Aziz Abu-Mus’ab said the attackers achieved nothing but suffered casualties.

According to witnesses, this morning’s attack, which occurred around 2am, targeted a house that was not far from the beach frequented by armed militias from the al-Qaeda linked group.

French troops were also known to have been involved in attacks inside Somalia like the one in January this year. Two French commandos were killed in a failed mission to rescue an agent held in Bulo Marer town in Somalia.

Ethiopian troops to withdraw Somalia

Ethiopian troops have threatened to withdraw from all major towns in Somalia where their troops have been stationed for the last few years. Only last weekend, they started withdrawing from the frontline town of Hudur. The insurgent group Al-Shabab immediately took over the town. This has caused a big debate within the Somali government and parliament such as why the Ethiopians are intending to leave, and why the Somali army did not stay put in Hudur?

Security has been the biggest flaw in the Somali transitional governments. They have had to rely heavily on foreign troops from the African Union and Ethiopia, which was controlling south western and central parts of Somalia.

A delegation from parliament has visited the strategic town of Baidoa in the southwest to try to convince the Ethiopians to stay longer and allow more AMISOM troops to be deployed there. There are currently one thousand AMISOM troops from Burundi in the town. Sheik Adan Madobe, an MP representing the Bay region, is part of the delegation:

“They told us it is not only Hudur – but that they intended to withdraw from places all over the country (Somalia). They said it was not their plan to stay for ever. They had always planned to hand over security to AMISOM and Somali government troops. They said they did not get any funding from the international community and no longer felt it necessary to stay.” Sheik Adan Madobe.

There are several other reasons why Ethiopian troops may be leaving Somalia.  Some believe Addis Ababa has been angered by the government in Mogadishu replacing its most senior military commanders in Somalia without consulting them.  Others point the finger at poor communication between the two governments.  Abdirashid Hiddig, who is a member of the parliamentarian subcommittee on security, is critical of the government’s approach to security and blames it for the Ethiopian withdrawal:

“If there was a proper diplomatic or political channel to communicate with them, I think they would have waited until the troops that would take over from them are ready. It is not a secret that there was some communication problem.” Abdirashid Hiddig.

Somalia’s transitional period ended last October with the election of a new president, speaker, parliament and cabinet. In this short time Somalis have expected a lot from their government – at the very least to take control of the security situation. But, this is believed to be a long way off. With thousands of troops trained outside the country, Somalis are not yet confident that their army can take responsibility on its own.           

Although the Somali government insists it is trying to pay soldiers’ salaries, critics say a lack of remuneration is damaging the army’s competency. Although they have given the current government credit for securing the capital with the help of African Union troops, they blame it for not extending its control outside Mogadishu.

The United Nations lifted the two decades old weapons embargo for a year in order to let the current government arm itself and have greater control over security. This has given Somalis some hope and many believe with the right armaments and permanent wages, the Somali military will be up to the job.

Kenya goes to the Polls

Today, Monday the 4th of March, Kenya decides who is to lead the country the next five years.

This will be the first election to be held under the new constitution that devolved the central power to regional states.

Five years ago, on December 2007, the election result was disputed right from the start in fact even as the polling stations closed.

On the 11th of January 2013, I visited Nairobi for the first time since 2007 when I was covering the election for BBC Somali. I left early January 2008. Everyone was concerned if could reach the airport safely as there were still some pockets of political violence involving rioters, rival factions and also the police.

It was later confirmed that thousands had died in clashes across Kenya and the election results dispute turned violent and gradually worsened.

As the riots erupted we were confined in our offices and hotels. Some of us could not go to their homes in Eastleigh and South C Neighborhoods of Nairobi for few days for fear of being caught in the violence. The only colleagues to leave the office were those assigned to cover the violence in different areas of Kenya including outside the capital, Nairobi.

After five years, that grim picture of violence receded and in turn was replaced for me at least in the short time, in the space of just 3 days, I was in Nairobi I had seen some development.

This was mainly visible on Nairobi Roads. New roads were built; some old narrow roads were expanded into 4 or more lane roads. Some of them, I could not recognize them. Few years back I was driving through the streets of London unaccompanied, but this time I thought I definitely could not do that because the transformation of Nairobi road with several fly overs built.

However, if the purpose of road buildings and transformation was to avert or minimize traffic jams, I can argue that this was not achieved and more work will definitely be needed. This is because I had experienced the traffic jams myself during the three days I have been in Nairobi.

During this time, I could also feel the election fever that gripped the nation. Election campaigns continued with messages relayed through loudspeakers attached to vehicles. Photos of candidates were everywhere, one could not be spared without seeing the photos, banners or campaign vehicles of candidates during any visit to Nairobi this time and remember the election was still two months away.

The most inspiring of all was the extent of information available and alternative campaign to get people ready to vote peacefully and avoid any political violence. I also saw one particular protest that was against parliament salary increases.

This year’s election is different from the one five years ago in many ways:

The election comes at the back the last one in which more than a thousand was killed when the results were disputed.

President Kibaki whose reelection five years ago sparked the political violence is no longer a candidate and he warned Kenyans to keep away from violence and called on free, fair and peaceful election.

International Criminal Court charged some of the presidential candidates and their allies of war crimes for their roles in the political violence that followed 2007 elections results. Charged candidates deny the charges.

The central power of government is decreased with the new constitution allowing power devolution to provisional states. Some say this was aimed at national power and resource sharing and above all to avoid any further political violence after the election.

According to news reports and sources in Kenya, there is still fear that political violence is a possibility during and after the election but many think lessons have been learnt and that possibility is very remote.

Last day of election campaigns on Saturday, the two leading candidate Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta spoke to thousands of their supporters at rallies in Nairobi.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said that he will accept the result if he is defeated in a free and fair election.

Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta seemed to be sure he would win by asking Raila Odinga to accept the election when he is defeated and retire.

Mr. Odinga is son of Kenya’s first Vice-President, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. It is the third time he stands for the presidency and hopes this may be his time.

Mr. Kenyatta is also the son of the first of president of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and if elected he will become the youngest president of Kenya, and also the 2nd African president indicted by the International Criminal Court.

On this election day, the eyes of the world will be on Kenya. Will there be free, fair and peaceful election? Have the Kenyans learnt from their mistakes? It will be seen soon.