Independent journalists are seen as threats and frequently face harrassment. Therefore a broad media sector support programme has been initiated to support independent journalists.
Photo: Brigitte Sins
Sweden Supports Somali Media
The media is expected to play an important role in the democratization process in Somalia, but faces huge obstacles. Sida is therefore allocating 49 million SEK (7 million USD) to a four year programme aimed at strengthening Somali media.
"What news do you have?" is a common greeting in Somalia, a country of avid news consumers. Obtaining accurate information has always been crucial for survival in this largely pastoralist and nomadic society.
In today's war-torn Somalia different forces seek to control the media for their own means, often to manipulate the public and fuel conflicts. Independent journalists are seen as threats and frequently face harrassment. Al-Shabaab in particular has been known for bombing radio stations and killing journalists as a way to silence independent voices.
The NGO International Media Support (IMS) and its partner Fojo Media Institute have therefore initiated a broad media sector support programme. The aim is to facilitate the establishment of an independent, free and professional media scene in Somalia. Inititally, the programme will run for four years, with a budget of 75 million SEK, 49 million (7 million USD) of which will be supplied by Sweden.
The programme addresses the challenges of the media sector within three focus areas:
- Media freedom
- Media independence
- Journalistic quality
When it comes to media freedom, the programme is advocating strengthened security for journalists and increased press freedom, including the establishment of media self-regulation bodies rather than restrictive legislation.
Media independence is promoted both through initiatives to strengthen the economic sustainability of the media houses and through raising awareness of the importance of editorial independence from political actors and vested interests. As things stand, political actors have placed a high premium on owning or controlling media outlets, especially radio stations.
To improve the quality of Somali journalism, the programme also seeks to strengthen the entry-level journalism education and establish capacity building for journalists.
Three cross-cutting areas will also be part of the programme: peace and reconciliation, gender and youth. The current societal transition is viewed as an opportunity to address hierarchical power structures and patriarchal attitudes. This also means strenghtening the role of women and the young in the media.
Furthermore, the programme seeks to involve the vast Somali diaspora, which has traditionally played an important role in Somali media. It is hoped that the diaspora can provide capacity building and partnerships as well as investments.
If successful, the programme could help Somali media grow stronger, more independent and less prone to self-censorship. In that event, it may serve as a force for moderation, minimizing the impact of propaganda from terror groups and warlords. Ideally, it could also contribute to establishing a culture of accountability and citizen participation in the democratic process.