A view into the Somali media today

Radio Mogadishu was established by the Government of Somalia in 1951. At the time, it was the only radio station in the country. Being the longest existing station, it holds a lot of history to it. The people of Somalia speak about it very fondly up to the time of the civil war, after which, their illumined faces darken with sadness. However, its story is not one that is a sad tale, rather one to uphold.
Regardless of the countless mortars and rounds of ammunition that deliberately targeted the colossal establishment, the station and what it stands for stood the test of time, and the carnage of war. Today, seven years after the start of the African Union Mission in Somalia, the station is reliving its glory days with peace relatively returning to the country.
Abdirahim Isse Addow, the Director of Radio Mogadishu, says the station is nothing short of a symbol of ability and strength, and something to be proud of. He commends the caretaker and operant at the time, the legendary Colonel Abshir Hasshi Ali, who preserved with his life an archive of what is over six decades of Somalia’s media history. The archive contains old Somali literature, pieces of music, poems, among other invaluable things.
After the destruction of their premises by the Al Shabaab, Somali National TV now shares Radio Mogadishu’s premises in the center of the vibrant Mogadishu city. The TV station employs 81 people, to total up to 126 employees employed by the two TV and radio stations. Forty of these are female. The staff is mostly young local Somali youth, with a few diaspora returnees.
“In Somalia, anyone with a camera is a journalist,” Abdirahim reveals. The level and nature of training is still badly lacking, and mostly people learn on the job. Abdirahim says it would be such a benefit if institutions could be put in place where these passionate young people can receive training, even for as little as three months.
He mentions that one of the biggest challenges they face as the media is the lack of specialistic training for their employees to work in hostile environments. “They end up getting into a lot of trouble for reporting things the way they shouldn’t be.” He attests that the current high number of endangered local journalists has a lot to do with this fact. “They sometimes tend to get too close to the fire and do not know how to get out of it when it starts to crackle, so they get burned.” Abdirahim says the aggressors are in most cases unhappy violated Shabaab, but also bears that there are times when it has been a case of vengeance.
The number of media stations coming up in Mogadishu and the rest of the regions grows by the day. The stations air programs from all spheres of the community, including but not limited to political debates, business sensitization programs, entertainment programs, religious programs aimed at moderating on-going situations, cookery and home maintenance programs for the women, as well as news. Almost all the programs are local programs and air in Somali language, except the news that has bulletins in Arabic and English.
“We can play music on the stations now,” Anisa Abdullahi, one of the radio hosts at a privately owned Aman Radio, an all-women radio station acknowledges, in allusion to the ban on music that had been imposed for many years by the gruesome Shabaab militants. Likewise the music played is mainly Somali music, sang by local people.
Radio tends to be more popular than TV. This is most likely because radio gadgets are more affordable and flexible, especially with the currently trending mobile phone radio applications. Some of the famous artists you will hear on the radios include the legendary Wabeeri singing group, the late Magool, Mohamed Suleiman, the king of the voice as he is locally known, among several other young brilliant artists. The music is mostly theatrical, with strong poetic lyrics about love, hope, the war, plus other topics that are close to the hearts of the Somali people.
The women at Aman Radio observe that the numbers of their audiences are high and very steady. “We get men calling in to commend our efforts towards educating their wives to better manage their homes,” Anisa larks with pride, owing to the fact that when the women first started out, they thought the most they could manage to get was only a few of their fellow women tuning in.
The type of equipment used in all the various stations still has a lot to strive for. Radio Mogadishu is considered to have the best equipment in the region, however even to this, the Director, Abdirahim says it is only two percent of what a standard station should have. The women at Radio Aman consolatory joke about this however, saying, “As long we can broadcast to a considerable number of people and get our message across, we are happy even using equipment we have to literary hold together to operate. Time makes everything better.”
The media in Somalia has played an invaluable role towards morale boosting and generally recovering from the war. It has preached peace, unity, forgiveness, patience, understanding, love and hope, towards the annihilation of the civil war and clan divisions. It has also provided jobs and skills to very many young people who would have otherwise remained idle and susceptible to extremism.
“We are proud of what we have done. We remained strong for the nation, and will continue until everybody is strong enough to dance to the music we now have the liberty to blast,” Abdirahim declares.
The government stations and the privately owned stations are funded by the government, and a few locals as well as international Non-Governmental Organizations respectively. The stations also get revenue from advertisements and the like. “The advertisers are local businesses. They range from shops, restaurants, salons, car dealerships, among others,” Abdirahim says.
There are still a bulk of challenges the stations face, from hanging computers right when a show is about to start, transmission problems, to power cuts in the middle of live shows, and countless others. However, Farhiyo Farah Roble, Radio Aman’s manager, is confident that better times are ahead.
Generally, the individuals in the media are pleased with what has become of Somalia today. The Islamists’ warring had caused the institution to crumble, but the people are now picking up the pieces at a steady pace. They appreciate the work AMISOM has done to rid the country of outrageous decrees against mobile phones, music, broadcasters and the media as a whole, and the relative peace that has made it possible for them to operate. They look to the future with hope and confidence, and know that someday very soon, Somalia will shine with glory once again.

Source: Desire AU/UN IST

Somali Media Mapping report