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Local News

Opinion: Why president Farmaajo's regime is considered to be the worst for local media

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 · 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

of expression.

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

them.

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.

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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

organizations.

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]

last updated: 2019-12-26@21:12