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Somali Media: Ethics, Truth and Integrity

By Abdelkarim A Hassan

I haven`t voted since 1964, I don`t want to get my judgment involved in what I do for a living Jim Lehrer, PBS, News Hour.


In recent years Somali journalism, Islam and Somali music have become the easiest areas to penetrate without any previous experience or training. In other words, anyone can claim to be a respected Sheikh, journalist and musician in this civil war era. The high tech internet age of today`s 24 hour cable journalism is much different from the time the first graduate program in Journalism was established at Columbia in 1912, with a grant from New York Editor and Publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Back then, the complex world of news reporting was highly specialized.i With the arrival of laptops, desk-top publishing, easy access to the internet, and affordable equipments such as digital cameras and audio recording the flood gates have opened.

In established media outlets, Op/Eds and news pieces are reported and presented in very distinct ways. This practice is often not the case in media outlets managed by Somalis including well established ones. In some cases, the news and opinions they carry are often very predictable. Somali run media in general lacks journalistic ethics due to the endless war that has devastated the country for nearly two decades. The tribal influences and lack of maturity, experience and accountability may be a direct reflection of the broken down systems in Somalia.

Copycat, plagiarism and a lack of originality is rampant in many Somali run media in this age where everyone desires to be a media outlet in an environment where news comes from haphazard means and media outlets are set up in an ad hoc manner. It`s therefore not surprising to encounter media outlets mimicking each other and at times copying information verbatim from one websites or another without the least care for originality. In the past few years, many agencies and associations have become the goose that lays the golden egg for many individuals as they falsely claim to represent the entire Somali media when in fact, their activity does not go beyond their own interests, tweet propaganda and income by the millions.

Some argue that most Somali run media today caters for a pre-tuned audience that expect it to carry certain news that promote their own beliefs and perspective. The late writer Mohamed Saleeban (may Allah bless his soul) once wrote an interesting piece for WardheerNews titled “Pre-tuned Audience”ii . Mohamed eloquently stated: “They are shy of speaking their conscience. Their content is predictable, if you are not writing what is expected of you as a priori by your pre-tuned bunch that surrounds you either physically or influentially, then you must be silent.”

Some news outlets even go further to fabricate news to fit their interest and lure new readers. On July 23, 2009 for example, a sensationalist Somali website published some shocking photos of what they referred to as a Somali student being slaughtered and cut into pieces in Malaysia. Fortunately, the Somali students association in Malaysia quickly repudiated the fabrications, provided evidence that the story was manufactured and availed the source of the photos which turned out to have been downloaded directly from the internet. This outrageous irresponsible tabloid reporting is tarnishing the image of some hard working few who desire to report genuinely about important news.

Somali Websites: The average Somali maryoolay of today is glued to the internet to get his news and information from a plethora of Somali news sources. People patronize these websites to get what they believe to be the most trusted news, in many cases because the website is their clan website of choice.

Read more: Somali Media: Ethics, Truth and Integrity

Abdelkarim A Hassan
Email: [email protected]

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