Under the leadership of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, the local media platforms in Mogadishu are said to have witnessed the worst era for press freedom due to the outcome of formidable oppression and subjugation imposed by the current government.Dec 2nd 2019 · 6 min read
Under the leadership of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, the local media platforms in Mogadishu are said to have witnessed the worst era for press freedom due to the outcome of formidable oppression and subjugation imposed by the current government.
This has resulted in the government being criticized for alienating
the press and disregarding the globally accepted principals of freedom
For the last three years that the incumbent government has been in
power, its oppositions have continuously alleged it of following an
unprecedented disingenuous approach in dealing with the independent
Somali media outlets based in Mogadisho and further afield. The
government’s attitude towards the press was regarded to be detrimental
to the fabric objectives of the free press that is meant to be ensuring
for the general public an undeniable right of accessing and obtaining
accurate and balanced information about all issues happening around
In pursuit of a self-conducted survey on the current situation in
which local media are operating, we’ve been able to get ahold of some
high profile media personalities who argued that despite the endless
concerns local residents are raising about the deteriorating situation
in Mogadishu, the daily news coverage of many newsrooms in the city are
blatantly bypassing the public voices, a clear sign that indicates how
the media’s key role in addressing social problems has been thrown under
the bus by the government’s outpouring desire for drawing the curtains
on its shortcomings.
Requesting their identities stay anonymous for personal reasons, our
respondents have highlighted that the government has managed to get the
independent media cowed into its desire by utilizing manifold
techniques; such as bribing the bosses of independent newsrooms,
intimidating them; or as a last resort, infiltrating their own editorial
and production teams when the first two attempts proved to be futile.
Journalists attend the Court Martial hearing in Mogadishu, August 02, 2016. | PHOTO AMISOM.Most of those who spoke to us in this survey have concurred that the
current government is considered as the first, in Somalia’s contemporary
political history, to have allocated special budget to the local media
in order to get them paid for relinquishing their freedom and succumbing
to the government’s repressive policies against the independent media.
Delving into this matter, we’ve learnt from reliable sources that the
office of the president’s media department has been in charge of
managing an estimated monthly budget of 40,000 USD to be used for
bribing the local media. However, we couldn’t confirm the authenticity
of these allegations from government sources, although several attempts
we’ve made towards this cause ended up fruitless.
During the course of this survey, we’ve also been told that the
government’s ill-intentioned efforts to triumph over the freedom of
press were not just confined to local media, but went further to make
its way towards some Somali-speaking foreign newsrooms. The bitter truth
about this was that some individuals from those platforms including
their correspondents in Mogadishu fell into the government’s trap by
agreeing to give up their rights of fulfilling their journalistic duties
independently and impartially in short-lived backdoor dealings that
were later discovered and prevented by the top managements of those
According to our sources, the government’s intention in engaging with
local media was initially depicted to be a positive way of cultivating a
constructive and collaborative relationship among the two sides, but
eventually it turned out to be a greedy strive by the government to
hijack the space of the media and weaponise it to punish whoever harbors political sentiments different to theirs.
At one of the first meetings to discuss the agreement with the local
media, government officials who were responsible for handling the matter
have enjoined media representatives in attendance from broadcasting
anything that would seem to be harmful to the government’s policies.
Instead media platforms were instructed to give a huge space to whatever
the Somali authorities want to communicate to the public.
Being assured that the majority of the media platforms were bound by
its bribe-fueled agreement; the Somali government felt the urge to apply
draconian approaches in confronting few media stations that resisted
the government’s temptation and carried on with their impartial way of
broadcasting. Most of those media faced enormous challenges from the
government and were subjected to profound intimidation and threats. In
what believed to be deliberate and planned attempts to cause harm or
fear, some media stations have either had their offices attacked or
their staff or properties assaulted by government soldiers in 2019.
Aside from the offensive actions taken by the government, plenty of
hurdles were laid on the path along which the journalists and their
newsrooms have to travel when seeking balanced and reliable news. Unlike
to previous governments, public offices and other government
installations have now become less accessible to journalists, and this
kept independent media out of the loop with all activities happening
there. Consequently, the only source that journalists can turn to for
government-related news became the government itself.
With the independent media that accepted to give up the ownership of
their news coverage, the line between them and the government-owned ones
have blurred to an extent that no differences can be noticed in the
elements of what both broadcast as news, since they are all in receipt
of the same press releases prepared for them to pass on to the public
without including any input from their side.
At individual levels, journalists and media bosses who are not in
tune with the government’s perspective towards the press are going
through unimaginable ordeal. Expressing the horrible life some
journalists are experiencing in Mogadishu at the moment, a TV director
said "Journalists in Mogadishu now fear from the government more than
Alshabab. We realized that anyone who tries to be adamant to the
government’s dictations would face dire consequences. We don’t want to
die or get hurt at the hands of those who meant to protect us”.
Although the government’s pressure on local media is still mounting,
some unsubstantiated claims suggest that interest-driven disputes within
those responsible for managing the government’s corruptive deals with
local media has hastened the project to come to a halt with a
possibility that new techniques have been employed as a replacement.
In spite of the fearful atmosphere journalists in Mogadishu currently
live in, many believe that with the considerable number of media
outlets and journalists who are showing their willing to remain
unshakable in the face of the government oppression, freedom of press
will continue to exist against all the odds.
__Mr. Abubakar is Multimedia Journalism Student at the University of Wolverhampton, UK. Email: [email protected]