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Toronto (Canada)

15, FEB. 2003

Email: afrah95@hotmail.com
M. M. Afrah

If you think you don’t want to read any more about Somalia, you are wrong. There are, of course, bad news and commentaries from Somalia in the Western media, with Somali news gatherers and editorial writers (including yours truly), with few exceptions, rallying around the flag or jumping on the bandwagon.

Critical post-mortem, muted in the beginning, seems to be gathering steam. North American media, shell shocked by the September 11 event and the war against Iraq, lost their ability to report impartiality, thus greatly tarnishing their credibility.

The organization “Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting” (FAIR), a major critic of mainstream media in America, found the coverage in the first few days acceptable. But when George W. Bush called a “war on terrorism” and “axis of evil” speeches, FAIR observed a change in tone and content on American TV networks, continuing to focus on Somalia, among other countries, as a haven for Osama and his Al-Qaeda network, ignoring the bitter truth that no Somali national was among those people who slammed the commercial airliners on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

In the heat of the moment a Somali cartoonist drew a cartoon of Osama bin Laden in one of the neophyte but vibrant newspapers in Mogadishu with the following caption:

“You’re wasting your time, Osama. The Mooryaan got here before you!”

(The word Mooryaan was added to the Somali parlance during the civil/clan wars and roughly means predators or homegrown terrorists, more lethal than the international terrorists.)

Another cartoon illustrating the talks in Eldoret quips:

“Just because they’re having silly old talks doesn’t mean there’ll be no more clan wars.”

Interestingly enough, these journalists in war-torn Somalia did not miss the train, despite being bullied and harassed by all sides in the conflict, with guns blazing. They cry for professionalism and independence—not clan propaganda and censorship attempts by the TNG. They continued to hold the torch of a free press even higher and simultaneously threatened to cease broadcasts and stop the printing presses if the TNG goes ahead with its draconian censorship legislation.

But the battle is not over yet. Journalists who report the antics of certain warlords and their cahoots face the barrel of the gun. Several journalists have been threatened, beaten or murdered by gunmen loyal to the powerful warlords and the big merchants.

In his investigative report, a young journalist had listed the names of the big merchants who paralyzed the meager economy of the country by flooding the markets with billions of fake currency. The editor of the paper was physically assaulted by gunmen loyal to the big merchants and left him for dead, and the young journalist is still in hiding after more than a year and half.  

“The giant Western media have been demonizing Somalia ever since the Americans pulled out in 1993/94 and we are trying to spotlight our problems by bringing international attention to them,” said a member of the fledging Somali Journalists Association in Mogadishu.

“We also need the Somali Diaspora to play their part,” he added.

Big Kudos to those brave souls!

Close to my adopted country, the daily Bush v. Iraq report is taking the center stage in the media these days and I am wondering whatever is happening with the “War on Terrorism”. But asking that question could be unpatriotic. So I’ll stick to the unending sticky Somali tragedy, hoping against hope that the world would eventually listen to us.

M.M. Afrah © 2003
Email: afrah95@hotmail.com


Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and a member of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two decades".

Many of us remember his critical articles in his weekly English language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory self-censorship introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am very proud to know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian censorship laws and went ahead to write what he thought was wrong in the country. He received several death threats from the warlords and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993. But he remained defiant and continued to send his stories of carnage and destruction to Reuters news agency. He still is!


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