The many dangers faced by journalists in conflict areas such as Somalia force us to consider whether it is worth the risk to cover these areas. Nevertheless, the role of the journalist as a peacemaker demands assignments to war and other danger zones.
Why travel to Somalia?
Since 1992, 34 journalists have been killed in Somalia in direct relation to their work, making this conflict-ridden country one of the deadliest countries in the world for reporters. But does this mean that reporters should stop reporting from Somalia?
One important argument is that news media play a key factor in conflict resolution efforts. One first needs to be aware of something before public opinion is created and the proper authorities are compelled to ‘do something’.
This argument is closely related to the ability of journalists to investigate and report. A trait which is often referred to as ‘freedom of the press’. Without it, the public is deprived of their right to know and therefore of their ability to excise power.
Reporting global issues
Events such as terrorism, humanitarian disasters and war in other parts of the world impact national security in such a way that global agendas are created. Some push for global solutions. Others look for regional solutions and some prefer national or even local solutions.
The issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia hits home, when Danish ships cannot pass the sea without fear of being taken hostage. As it recently happened for a Danish family of sailers. The armed Islamic group, Al-Shabaab, becomes our business, when our humanitarian relief is hindered by them.
The issue of piracy has caused Danish Navy to guard the sea off the coast of Somalia. However, other issues relating to the plight of the Somalia people and the atrocities committed on land are often under-reported. If we want to promote responsible global reporting than we need to cover these issues.
Promoting safe journalism
In countries such as Somalia, the situation is one of permanent chaos. Somalia remains in the midst of an ongoing violent crisis that has seen the nation without an effective government for nearly twenty years.
A culture of violence and impunity causes an environment in which the press is deliberately targeted by warring parties. Reporting in Somalia therefore requires research, planning, observation and reflection. Professional safety training courses, first aid and emergency aid courses are essential.
Even the best stories and pictures are only of value when they are read, seen or heard – the best journalists are better alive than dead. And while no one can remove all dangers from the profession, journalists, their organizations and their employers, all have a critical function in reducing the unacceptable rate of death and injury in Somalia.