VOA Horn of Africa director
BBC East Africa Bureau
BBC/VOA Somali service: Reality vs. falsehood
Modern media, especially the internet, cable TV, and even radio, can receive and disseminate information very quickly. This makes the world a more connected place, and helps the public to be better informed. It also gives people more access to ideas, opinions, and news from many different sources.
But this technological progress does not come only with advantages, but disadvantages, too. The speed of modern media is a mixed blessing, since it can lead to the spread of rumors, lies, and incorrect information that can easily “go viral” and thereby create or exacerbate existing tensions among societies. For example, after the last episode of the Somali civil War broke out in December 1990, the wars which began as struggle for control of the government quickly degenerated into armed robbery and occupation of valuable towns, seaports, neighborhoods, and agricultural arable by conquering clan warlords that have built and managed their own military apparatus. As a result, patterns of clan settlements have changed mainly in the urban, and farming areas such as Mogadishu, Juba valley (Kismayo), and Lower Shabelle in the south, just to mention few!
As the Somali civil war progressed its complexity did as well. The aforementioned conquerors acquire substantial support beyond their evident constituency, mainly from misuse of international aid, and from journalistically ill-vetted Somali staff of the widely tuned BBC and the VOA, who exploit the electromagnetic waves of those radios to mobilize clan militias and distort reality from the outside world. The latest spate of such distortions is being unfairly directed to the Kenyan government and to one particular Somalis sub-clan, as the port city of Kismayo fell to the Somali and the Kenyan AMISOM forces from Al-shabab. This balkanization from the BBC and the VOA Somali services, whose members are mostly seen as belonging to one segment of the Somali groupings, undermines any healing process of the civil war wounds, and reignites resentment amongst the tribally divided Somali society.
However, building a lasting peace in Somalia can only begin with a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the country’s past and the social structure of Somali people. The past holds many lessons that will aid in forging a politically and economically healthy united Somalia. Knowledge and understanding are the most powerful deterrents to the recurrence of conflict as Somalia strives to give meaning to the sentiments of ‘Never Again’.
Therefore, in order to preserve the nearly century-old brand name of the BBC Somali service, and the newly pioneered VOA Somali section, we hereby encourage joining the solution-seekers coalition (community of nations) for peace in Somalia, in giving better instruction about the journalistic provision to your fellow Somali workers; as media involvement in clan politics can be very dangerous to the reputation of your organizations and to the Somali peace process.
Thank you all
Farah – Kolley