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Sunday Express,October 24, 2010 — October 30, 2010 11


Somalia: A hell for journalists


By Clément Girardot ast week Monday, a grenade was thrown into the building of a local private FM station Radio Horseed located in Bosaso, port city of the autonomous territory of Puntland. A technician was slightly injured by a gun attack against a nearby café. The origin of the assault is still unknown and the radio is back on air. Recent months were dark for press freedom in Puntland. On august 14, the director of Horseed Media Abdifatah Jama Mire was sentenced to jail for six years after having interviewed an Islamist rebel leader. Two weeks later Abdullahi Omar Gedi working for Radio Daljir in the same region was murdered by several stabs. Nine journalists were killed in Somalia in 2009 and 3 since the beginning of this year. The situation for media professionals in the country is tragic and no improvement is expected soon as fightings between Islamist militias and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which controls only a part of the capital Mogadishu, are going on. One of the bloodiest attack occurred on December 3 last year when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside Shamo Hotel in Mogadishu during a University graduation ceremony. 25 people lost their lives, including ministers, doctors, students and three journalists. “I was

“We share the problems of the Somali people when it comes to fightings, mortar shells and everything. What we as journalists particularly feel bad and threatened are the calls and the text messages coming from the insurgents saying to us: “You are doing something for western nations” and other bad names.

Mohamed Hassan in the Irin Somali service radio studio. one of the journalists who were there”, said Mohamed Olad Hassan, a BBC reporter living in Mogadishu. “I changed my seat and I went out for drinks. While I was still very close, the explosion occurred and the person who replaced me died.” “We share the problems of the Somali people when it comes to fightings, mortar shells and everything. What we as journalists particularly feel bad and threatened are the calls and the text messages coming from the insurgents saying to us:

“You are doing something for western nations” and other bad names. As I am working for the BBC and AP, insurgents believe that I am spying for these agencies. We work in a very dangerous place where we do not know who is targeting you, who is going to kill you”, he added. The country is second after Iraq in the 2009 Impunity index published by the Committee to Protect Journalists as journalist murder cases are rarely solved in Somalia. Since the collapse of the central

State in 1991, there is no more unified national body empowered to investigate and prosecute criminal actions. The total lack of state of law allows every party to target journalists or media house which do not follow their line or which broadcast news they perceive as negative. Somalia was ranked 161th country out of 175 in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index that was released on October 20. “The two leading Islamist militias, Al-Shabaab and Hizb-Al-Islam, are gradually seizingcontrolofindependent radio stations and using them to broadcast their religious and political propaganda”, stated in a report the press freedom advocacy NGO. In September, Al-Shabaab and Hizb-Al-Islam militias looted two radio stations in Mogadishu. Such direct violent attacks against media houses are becoming more and more frequent in Somalia. “Each group wants to create its own propaganda”, declared Mohamed Hassan, journalist for UN supported IRIN radio Somali service based in Nairobi. “The Islamists are now launching their own media but I do not know which principles they are using. They just

force journalists to broadcast what is wrong or what is true according to their own interests and ideology”. Insurgents already took over a number of local FM radios in Southern and Central Somalia and banned programs from foreign media such as BBC or Voice Of America. Al-Shabaab implemented very strict rules for air broadcasting in its own territories. Music is banned as well as female voices. It is also forbidden to report any news against them or interview members of the TFG based in Mogadishu. Radio is playing a strategic role in the war on information in Somalia as it is the most popular media and easy to broadcast. “Somali people are oral people, they don’t like reading or writing and the availability of TV is limited, the infrastructure of the country is too low”, said Mohamed Hassan. Due to persecutions and fear, many Somali journalists are compelled to flee in order to seek protection in bordering countries like Kenya and then find asylum in Western countries. Nairobi has become a new home for exiled Somali journalists as there is a big Somali community living in Eastleigh and it is a headquarter for

many international and humanitarian organizations. Several journalists complained about the miserable life they face in Nairobi as they lack of economical resources and fear to go out because Somali refugees are regularly harassed by Kenyan police. Some claimed to feel still unsafe as they continue receiving threat messages from Al-Shabaab. One of these refugees is Mohamed Yasin Isak, a journalist from Puntland who was shot and injured by a police officer of the local government last year and then taken to prison. He is now living in Nairobi but still receives menaces from Puntland: “There is no work here. It is a very big problem to stay in Nairobi. I feel scared. I don’t go out at night, it is like a prison”, he said. His only hope is to get resettled in a safe country through the UNHCR but this procedure can last for a couple of years. Others wish to come back to their homeland when the country is stable like 26 years old female journalist Ubah Abdinor Osman who said: “I want to go back if it is possible”. When asked if she is optimistic to come back soon, she answered a disillusioned “No!”

Union demands councils to provide water services By George Kebaso Kenya Local Government Workers Union (KLGWU) says that provision of water services in the country remains a legitimate function of the local authorities. Union General Secretary, Boniface Munyao argues that Section 178 of the Local Government Act cap 265, of the Laws of Kenya was never affected when water services in the country were commercialised with the enactment of the Water Act 2002 by Parliament on July 18, 2002. The new law was gazetted in October 2002 as the Water Act, 2002 and went into effect in 2003 when effective implementation of

its provisions commenced. This move automatically led to the formation of water companies and provision of water transferred to other entities. But in his further argument after the Industrial Court in Nairobi registered a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the Union and the Association of Local Government Employers (ALGE), Munyao insists that water is the property of the councils as mandated by the government. A fortnight ago, Industrial Court Judge, Justice James Rika, registered the CBA after a long period of demarcation of responsibilities tussle between KLGWU and

National Union of Water and Sewerage Employees (NUWASE) dating back to the year 2005.Justice Rika also deleted Clause 1 of the CBA which states that it covered the Local Authorities’ unionisable employees, ‘the Councils’ Water Companies’ effectively locking out water companies from the CBA that encompasses some of its employees who are members of the KLGWU. Munyao continues to say that, it is wrong for water, an essential commodity to the survival of millions of human beings and animals to be commercialised in the face of compromised services. “Even the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is opposed

to commercialisation of water through what is commonly known as privatisation,” says Munyao referring to a July 1999 ILO meeting in Geneva. He said that privatisation of utilities such as water, gas and electricity can affect the development, delivery, price and quality of services provided and concluded that in all such cases of change in ownership, “every effort should be made to protect the rights and interests of workers through negotiation, consultation and collective bargaining.” The Unionist says that regardless of this provision by ILO, water services in the country have

done the “opposite” by creating a quasi-market condition in public service delivery leading to emergence of business principles and management techniques that have compromised the quality of the services. He also accused the water companies of colluding with councils to transfer some of the Union’s members without duly being consulted. But he maintained that their transfer does not affect any of their rights. “Some of the employees of the Local Authorities were transferred to the water companies without our knowledge but should continue to enjoy the benefits of the CBA we negotiated,” says Munyao.

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