Most of the time, most of what we read, hear and see from Somalia comes from Somalis. Local reporters work for all major news outlets, but they are usually not entitled to any of the protection offered to ‘regular’ staff members.
Local reporters at risk
There are hundreds of journalists with varying degrees of skill scattered though out Somalia, practicing their craft under extremely dangerous circumstances. Major news agencies and media houses such as Reuters, AP, Al Jazeera, and BBC employ these workers.
In many cases, the risks of using foreign correspondents as opposed to local reporters are considered to high. This results in a preference for local reporters by international news organizations in Somalia.
The statistics show that it is mostly local reporters which are being attacked and wounded if not killed, arrested or threatened by the militia as well as the Transitional Somali Government.
Implications for coverage
Ever since the fall of former president Siad Barre’s government in 1991, there has been ongoing outbreaks of inter-clan violence throughout the south of Somalia and especially in Mogadishu. Puntland, the Horn of Africa, is a region with its own government.
Puntland supposedly provides a more secure environment in which journalists can report without the same danger that their colleagues encounter further south. And then there is Somaliland, which considers itself a separate country, despite not being recognized by either the African Union (AU) nor the United Nations (UN).
It is also supposedly safer to practice journalism in Somaliland than in other parts of the divided country, although local reporters here protect their position by shying away from reports on sovereignty and relations with Mogadishu.
Foreign journalists travel in flak jackets and armored vehicles
Major African news outlets such as the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and Radio France Internationale are regularly taken on tours by African Union Mission in Somalia’s (Amisom) PR people.
The journalists travel in Casspirs (landmine-protected personnel carrier used by troops) through the parts of Mogadishu under the joint control of the African Union and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
In grave contrast to the local reporters, these journalists are protected by soldiers, flak jackets and armored vehicles, but they only get a limited view of the situation. They also get to leave once their short assignment comes to an end.