Dear Jamal Osman, people who kill journalists, kill journalists; A discussion on ‘native informants’ and privilege

As a Somali journalist, I’m ashamed to be associated with the profession, especially when operating in the country. Somali journalists fail to recognise their basic responsibilities to the public “ Jamal Osman

In recent days, many of us active in the Somali social media realm have been engrossed in Jamal Osman’s piece in the Guardian entitled, “Somali journalists are dying from corruption as much as conflict”-causing a firestorm of controversy that has many hailing Jamal Osman as a trailblazer, and others critical of his laissez faire approach to the political violence against Journalists in Somalia. I sat with my thoughts about this article for a few days, and really wanted the implications of his accusations and claims to simmer before I levied any accusations or offered any praise. The issue of political violence against one of our most hardworking, undervalued, marginalized citizens; Somali journalists, is one that can easily ignite emotional rhetoric, often derived from political allegiances, and at times, privilege. Ahh, that word, privilege; a word I aim to dissect in relation to Jamal Osman’s recent parlay into the political nature of media in Somalia, and believe much of his arguments borrow heavily from the comforts that are a western address and Channel 4 as your employer.

Now this isn’t’ an attack on Jamal Osman, and many of us political/cultural junkies are hip to his impressive CV, and admirable list of prestigious accolades, and it need not be stated that he is a respected member of our community, and trusted amongst his colleagues, but in this case, I believe Jamal Osman has concocted an outrageously irresponsible, slanderous and dangerous piece that achieved gains in only normalizing volence against Journalists in Somalia; But also serving as a political tool that panders to Western caricatures  of Somalia as a land without hope, riddled with corruption, depravity, violence, and he did this in a British newspaper.

Now before I get into some of my issues with his claims, I need to clarify my role in this discussion, and in anticipation of any critiques against my impending critique of Osman’s piece. I feel the need to address any perceived bias, and efforts to silence discussion on my part, and use this an opportunity to discuss the nuances between productive discussions that address taboo political/cultural norms, and arguments that manipulate facts, distorting reality, and in essence, serving only as a caricature of Spivak’s native informant (the savage ‘other’ constructed by colonial imagination, and manipulated to serve as a gateway between the west, and ‘us’),-thus failing to change the material circumstances of the society one aims to change.

I run a political blog with a very liberal slate, and often many of my critics accuse me of pandering to western narratives, and yet I continue to tackle issues involving women’s rights, religion, cultural norms, sexuality, identity politics, and a plethora of other topics that many would rather we not ‘wash in public’. Now my responsibility, although just a blogger, is to be mindful of my privileged position as a holder of a western passport, communicating to my people in a language that isn’t indigenous to us, and preaching to them about values they may find hostile. Now that doesn’t mean my role as a member of the Somali Diaspora alleviate Somalis from my critique and deconstruction of our political landscape, but it does mean that I must be mindful of my privilege, my biases, and how some of my deeply held principles may perhaps give ammunition to voices who seek to marginalize and silence the voice of Somalis, and Africans at large.  And that privilege is my cross to bear as I navigate these political discussions, which call accountability and transparency of my own political agenda. And I’m just a blogger, so you can imagine, what responsibility you have as a Journalist operating in Britain, criticizing without a shred of tangible evidence, a group of marginalized Somalis who risk life and limb to report the news. I tell you these facts  in anticipation of rebuttals that might dismiss me as simply a disgruntled Somali in opposition  to rigorous introspection of our cultural and political problems, and  if that’s your position, I encourage you do a quick run through of the topics I cover, as you may find your charges to be without merit. I don’t encourage the silencing of dissent, and believe we Somalis must poke at these painful political/cultural places, if we’re serious about our attempt to rehabilitate our fractured nation. In other words, let’s discuss our issues, but what I will not do, is support lazy journalism cushioned and paid for by western media conglomerates, to simply regurgitate the clichéd motif of ‘Africa as a bastion of corruption’.

Jamal Osman’s article provided zero evidence of his claims, and instead was riddle with dangerously generalized statements like, “The sad reality is that such behavior can be witnessed on a regular basis. Something I often say to fellow Somali journalists is that we were meant to expose corruption; instead, we are the bad guys.” As an avid reader of the Guardian, I’m left wondering if such vague and unsubstantiated statements from an English Journalist conducting an expose into the corrupt British media landscape would make it past an intern in the quality control assembly line. And it doesn’t stop there, Osman continues to provide us with quantitative and qualitative evidence like, ” I can even recognize if the reporter was happy with the amount of money that she or he was paid”. It seems Osman here is operating with ‘truthiness’ as his guide, a political term, coined by satirist Stephen Colbert to name the phenomenon of constructing truth claims from gut reactions, and emotional responses. I’m sorry ladies and gentleman, but I’m at a loss for words, and left wondering when did anecdotes become a legitimate source? I’m not suggesting that Osman is incorrect about his observations, but as a Journalist who is entrusted and paid to uncover hard-hitting facts, and to provide well-researched journalism, I suspect this caliber of investigative journalism might be problematic- Especially, when one is aiming to dismiss the violence against Journalists as a product of their own moral decline.

Now let’s assume Jamal Osman is right, and that media landscape in Somalia is rift with greedy, tribalistic, incompetent journalists making it hard for real honest guys like him-Let’s imagine that narrative as true for a minute. Dare I then ask, Monsieur Osman, what do you think might cause a journalist living and working in Somalia to take bribes? As a cultural/politic junkie, I have a propensity for valuing the importance of variables in analyzing a particular social/political phenomenon. Before one speaks of corruption amongst Somali Journalists, I’m left wondering about economic, political landscape that offers little protection and financial assistance for the men and women who risk their lives to provide the masses with an inclusive look into post-conflict Somalia, often without the financial and political stability afforded to Channel 4’s Jamal Osman.

I think context and nuance are an integral part of analyzing any social/political cause, especially when this analysis aims to explain why our Journalist are being hunted down by powerful factions, terrorist groups, and corrupt government officials. Osman provided little information on the demands made by government officials, and other factions groups against these journalists, and much of his analysis was one-sided, biased, and without factual merit. Since, we’re a fan of anecdotal evidence, I know of many Journalists who’ve had their lives threatened if they did not provide favorable reporting in defense of certain political leaders, and believe any discussion about media corruption should also involve the powerbrokers in this region, namely IGOs, NGOs, AMISOM, government officials, warlords, and the bane of our existence,  dear old Al-Shabaab.

Interesting note on Jamal’s analysis of rehabilitation tactics against journalists, Al-Shabaab labels as pro-government hacks. Osman observes, “Second, those journalists working for government-run or pro-government media are seen as “soldiers” by opposition groups such as al-Shabaab, the Islamist group linked to al-Qaida”, a presumptuous statement that gives legitimacy to the grievances of a terrorist organization that routinely executes local Somalis for selling tea to government officials as evidence of their double-dealing espionage. This is the group Osman aims to provide legitimacy with. According to his logic, if there is suspicion of AL-Shabab as the culprits of these crimes, it must point to corruption on the part of the victims journalists-An argument that yields to and presents the grievances and paranoia of a terrorist group that bans bras and samosas as evidence of corruption. So in other words, if Al-Shabab is onto you, its safe to assume you’re in the pockets of government officials, even if you’re just a local shoe-shiner, shining the shoes of a man who knows someone who knew someone who worked for the government. To call this deductive reasoning problematic is, well, a lesson in futility, as we’ve since passed the point of how problematic this expose is.

It’s fair to say I’m skeptical about Osman’s motives like many of his critics. His article points to a media landscape rife with corruption, and Somali Journalists as a demographic lacking an iota of professional integrity, incapable of non-partisan reporting, and inept at their position. I think this narrative is very convenient for the western media, as it can dismiss, and has dismissed local journalists as incompetent, and that for one to really access information from the region, one can only trust in western voices. After all, they’re not susceptible to the influence of tribal allegiances, and cultural biases, issues that apparently only plague us miscreant Africans. There’s a scarcity in discussions about the integrity of the countless western reporters operating in the region, and their questionable and casual approach to ethics (I’ll give you a clue, most of these guys probably wrote a book about us at some point), but plenty of ‘Oh’s’ and ‘Ah’s’ about the ramifications of entrusting the Somali to pen an article without lining his pockets with Shillings. I think Osman’s article was a nice topping to complement the already hostile media landscape on Somali coverage that reduces us to Pirates, terrorists, warlords, and now apparently even our journalists can’t keep their hands out of the proverbial cookie jar.

Lastly, I ask Jamal Osman, if he were serious about getting to the root of the political violence against Journalists, why not provide us with commentary from institutions and journalists who actively work against this practice? Is everyone corrupt? judging by your article, it would certainly seem that way. Why instead offer generalized caricatures of Somali journalists, supported by anecdotal evidence? Did you not foresee the implications of dismissing the targeted, meticulous and systematic attacks against your colleagues as simply corruption on their part? Well to be fair, Osman acknowledges the reality of a ‘dangerous Somalia’ as a possible variable, should his thesis fail to withstand further investigation. With one article comprised of anecdotes and generalizations, Osman has succeeded in giving legitimacy to those who work vigorously to silence Journalists in Somalia.  I’m also fascinated by Jamal Osman’s failure to contact the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) about his thesis. Is it fair to assume that a journalist ought to perhaps bring the issue of political violence against corrupt journalist to the Union responsible for representing journalists in the region? If not, at least for a sound bite?

I can already hear the critics decrying, ‘well why would he do that when NUSOJ could also be corrupt, and might dismiss his claims’. Perhaps, but it might be wise to note that NUSOJ is a trusted Union that has campaigned on behalf of Journalists since 2002. It was recently awarded the ‘Democracy Courage Award’ by the Washington D.C based Solidarity Center, an organization that works in labor union advocacy (for those of you that require our organizations be stamped with a seal of approval from western organizations). According to NUSOJ, its aim is “to ensure media freedom, ethical standards in media by
1. Protect and Promote Freedom of the Press, Speech and Information. 
2. Improve working conditions and safety & security of journalists. 
3. Defend and promote principles and practice of the journalistic profession.” I believe its fair to assume that before one dismisses the media climate in Somalia as corrupt, it might be wise to invite the organization entrusted to spread and promote ethics in journalism, and lobbying for a more transparent media climate, to the a seat at the dialogue table.

Final note, my aim in this discussion is to not derail nor dismiss the charges of corruption in Somali media as an irrelevant issue, and believe this is a conversation that needs a platform immediately. Corruption is real, and rife in Somalia, but it is real and rife everywhere, and we Africans do not have a monopoly on questionable media ethics. But if one is sincere about challenging media corruption, then one has a responsibility to speak to the community it aims to address, and not speak about them. Jamal Osman is a respected journalist, but also a privileged agent with an opportunity to communicate his grievances through major western media conglomerates, in a language not spoken by a large majority of the group he seeks to indict, while conveniently speaking to an audience that has already dismissed Somalia as beyond moral and political repair.

There are countless Somali journalists in recent days that’ve challenged his claims through Somali newspapers and online sources, but unfortunately, many do not have the cultural and economic capital to address their grievance in english to an english speaking audience, and on the Guardian. And that’s precisely why I felt compiled to respond to this, and left angered by those marginalized voices that are now left fighting for their lives reporting our lives with integrity and bravery.  As a journalist living in London, Osman has access to a network of journalist, works for a reputable network, and could easily locate finances that could support an environment where this discussion could take place amongst Somalis, but opted for a more convenient route. Parting thoughts, many of my brilliant critics often ask me, ‘Is your aim to speak to us, or about us’, when I engage in uncomfortable and controversial sociopolitical issues, a question that calls for accountability, and recognition of one’s privileged position as an insider reporting back to the west about the misbehaved savage. I pose a similar question to you Jamal Osman, and hope this episode can serve as a teachable moment about the responsibility we bare as privileged Somalis. Finally, in solidarity with Journalists in Somalia, and in conflict regions everywhere who bring us our stories and give our narratives, as uncomfortable as they may be at times, a voice.

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8 thoughts on “Dear Jamal Osman, people who kill journalists, kill journalists; A discussion on ‘native informants’ and privilege

  1. Well for starters, I think you can at least try to be fair to Jamal who is an otherwise excellent journalist and admit that it would have been if nothing else uncharacteristic for him, someone who goes out of his way to protect his sources and local contacts in Somalia and especially Mogadishu, to start naming names here, now. I don’t know what evidence you’re looking for Idilay as to whether or not shahuur exists, but if you wanted names of people who are paying and receiving bribes then you are looking to the wrong man to give them to you (and finding them is only as difficult as attending any sort of political event here in Mogadishu). Jamal is not the sort of man to name and shame when it comes to a profession that he loves and respects and is very much a part of. And I think that’s the larger picture we need to keep in mind here- I don’t believe Jamal is trying to harm or criticise anyone in particular for the pure sake of criticism. He’s trying to do exactly what you have agreed needs to be done- create a conversation about this issue. He’s in the role that he does best, he is playing the opposition. This is an opposition piece to the classic narrative about ‘nobel journalists just fighting to tell the truth in a place hostile to the truth’, i.e. the piece on Inside Story a couple months ago, as well as many other articles on the dangers of journalism in Somalia, just like he routinely takes up an oppositional stance to the mainstream perspective that AS is completely bad.

    Otherwise, look, I agree with you- Jamal’s article lacked a lot of the political, economic or social context as to why what is happening is happening, and he may have very well done what so many people here in Mogadishu often do when someone is killed: he blamed it on the victim. Every case of a dead journalist is different, there are a 1000 ways to get youself shot in Somalia, especially Mogadishu or Galkayo, and so of course you can’t so easily generalise…

    Yes it was a little surprising that it lacked evidence but to be completely honest, it has been even more surprising for me personally to know how the system works for a year and to never hear anyone talk critically about it, except when another journalist had died. All I used to hear was “Oh so and so got shot, they must have pissed someone off” or “So and so politician didn’t pay for his airtime so he’s not been broadcast at such and such conference”. And then after every conference or political gathering or even hotel opening you’d have the squadron of 20 guys running with notebooks and cameras after this guy or that guy who organised the event asking for their money.

    During the constitutional assembly here in Mogadishu you would sometimes see huge groups of guys with cameras and equipment surrounding one guy who nobody even knew, some nobody who was giving them each 100 bucks or less to get him his 5 minutes on television. I know because I was working with SNTV to broadcast the event live, and when I asked our cameraman and reporter why the FUCK they were interviewing some guy that nobody really knew and that was going to be on EVERY other station they told me “because he’s paying us to be on tv”. One of those guys was named Abdisataar, and two weeks ago he was shot and killed alongside his two colleagues within five minutes of sitting down at the Village restaurant.

    The problem, from how I see it, is quite simple: the entire media structure in Somalia is completely fucked up and turned upside down. From what I’ve been able to understand, it’s like reverse freelancing- the owners of the distribution outlets (be it websites, radios or televisions) as a whole do not pay the journalists for their work, but instead get paid BY the journalists. The reporters must take the money from the subject, and the rate is pre-set and pretty standardized across the board. Say a reporter gets paid $300 from a guy to take his interview at whatever event he has found himself in, with the understanding that the guy will have his interview put on whichever television channel the reporter says he works for- he will take $100, give his cameraman $100 (if he is fair) and give the producer of the channel the remaining $100, which will then be forwarded to the owner (after everyone else takes out their cut).

    As you might guess, there is a lot of room for error. Say the reporter can’t get the interview on tv for whatever reason, say he doesn’t even bother to give the producer his cut and just takes the remaining money. The person who paid to have his interview put on television is going to be watching, and is going to get upset when he doesn’t see it there. Then imagine the reverse: the reporter gets promised his money and puts the interview on tv with the assumption he’s going to get paid, but never does. Then he and the producer decide to tell some stories, make some things up…which then pisses off the guy meant to pay and a couple days later someone ends up getting killed.

    People hear and talk about the killing of the journalist without ever questioning the bigger problem here: is this actually journalism or is this paid advertisement? I’m speaking to the televisions mostly here, and I’m pretty sure Jamal is as well, seeing as it’s his field: I think anyone would be very hard-pressed to come up with any example of actual journalism that occurs at any of the big four- Somali CHannel, Universal, Horn Cable, or SNTV. If nothing else, I’d be impressed if you manage to sit through a solid hour of ‘news’ without changing the channel. It’s really awful stuff, and very few people benefit from it. The owner makes millions of dollars on adverts from Dahaabshiil and Somtel and broadcasting MOU’s from the UN while the reporters on the ground, who come up with all the content to squeeze between advertisements, fight over pennies to feed their families.

    I have had the privilege to work with many talented journalists in Somalia over the past two years, Abdisataar was definitely one of them. He was a natural presenter, he was very confident in front of the camera and had a real talent and huge potential…however he, like every other journalist that I have worked with here, was caught up in a system that did not favour them to win and so he lost.

    Finally, you are right: Jamal has an enormous privilege as not only a journalist but a SOMALI journalist to yes have a wide audience, yes be so well respected, and most importantly be PAID what he deserves to be paid for the work that he does. If you think, however, that he is not aware of that then you are wrong. I know Jamal well enough to know that he’s also tired of the system working the way it does, of being ashamed to be called a journalist in Somalia, of having to worry about the safety of those people who he’s working with. As you point out, and as Jamal was clear to note as well, not all news is shahuur: and there are real journalists in Somalia who do real investigative work. Jamal works with those guys, all of his stories have local fixers who track down the story and do most of the groundwork, and he knows that if their names were to be made public they would be targeted and most likely killed.

    The first step to ensuring their safety is not to change the system, but to talk about the problems of the current system. He’s started the conversation, and in my opinion every journalist everywhere (Somali or non-Somali, but especially Somali) should take up the task of continuing it.

    -matt wilder

    • Hi Matt,

      Firstly, thank you for your thorough and nuanced response, and in the beginning of your comment, you called for a recognition of Osman’s prestige, and to be fair, I acknowledge his value as a respected member of the journalist community, and it is because of his status that I felt compelled to respond. He is not an amateur journalist, and understands very well the implications of his charges, and i feel he needs to be accountable for his words.

      Your commentary on corruption in media journalism was more thorough than Osman’s piece, and while his intentions may be honourable, his methods, his assumptions, and his generalizations were dangerous and i think, very sloppy. It’s one thing to pose this as a potential problem, and ignite a national debate; and another thing to act as judge and juror and not provide your audience evidence. The paradigm of somali journalists as corrupt is now legitimized by him through his Guardian expose. No longer are the deaths of Somali journalists worthy of serious investigation, as Osman has just given them the ammunition to dismiss their plight. His casual approach to this very real issue was irresponsible, and i’ve spoken to countless journalists in the region who are not only enraged, but frightened by what this could mean for their future. I’ve also noticed many of his supporters are foreigners and diaspora Somalis working in Somali media, and wondering if this type of condemnation on their part may perhaps stem from their cultural biases, and some have argued all this may stem from a need to dominate Somali media on their part by dismissing local journalists and certain media groups as corrupt (I don’t know if i buy that theory, but I can see where that narrative may stem from).

      Lastly, a discussion on corruption in Somalia must have nuance and context, and at the very least, evidence. I’m not suggesting he give us a list of names, but damn, atleast credit them as anonymous, and give us some sort of statistics, speak to lobby group, speak to a union group, speak to other local journalists, but don’t dish out your grievances based on your observations, and report it to the international community as facts. What he’s essential done is give legitimacy to those agents that seek to kill journalists. His assumption that curbing corruption might account for a potential decrease in political violence is ridiculous. I’m surprised as a journalist, he fails to comprehend why folk in his profession might be a danger to the political factions in the region. I just run a blog, and i’m no stranger to threats of violence, and he’s surprised that there are elements that actively seek to silence journalists?

      But there maybe a silver lining in all this, and found your response much more nuanced and helpful than his original critique, and we need those narratives. Let’s first address the hostile nature that not only disenfranchises local journalists, but seeks to render harm for daring to report the story. Then let’s have a discussion on corruption. The survival habits of a starving population, and financially destitute works is not enough to indict all somali journalists, and wondering if Osman’s hands would be just as clean, if he didn’t have a Channel 4 employer, and a British address. Thank you for your response, and hoping he provides a follow-up with this discussion with more evidence, more engagement, and perhaps use this ugly episode as a chance to ignite real and vigorous discourse.

      • Idilay,

        I don’t know if it necessarily does that, I don’t know if the international community reads this essay by Jamal and immediately writes off any future killing of a journalist in Somalia. From my perspective, and as I said above, whenever a journalist was killed before there were two distinct responses that occurred: 1) the international community, or basically those outside Mogadishu and outside the world of Somali media, would blindly assume that this was an affront to freedom of speech/free journalism and would condemn the act of the killing or 2) those familiar with how things are run in Mogadishu or within the world of Somali media would mourn the loss of a friend, but then go on to assume that it was he who fucked up, who pushed things a bit too far, always in the name of money.

        My point is, there was never any nuance. Jamal’s piece isn’t the first to lack nuance in the context of Somali media/journalism- but it is the first public account of a entirely different side.

        Back when Al-Jazeera was doing their piece on Inside Story about the dangers of being a Somali Journalist, Ahmed and I were shooting it for them and we both spoke at length with their producer to try and place into context the overwhelming amount of murders that occur. I personally spoke with her for almost an hour on the phone, telling her my perspective and pretty much echoing what I wrote above. Ahmed did the same. We both warned her not to fall into the easy archetype of the nobel journalist who pushes for the truth to be told and who is consequently shut down by the world of warlords and corruption. That’s not ALWAYS the case, in fact most of the time, from our experience, that isn’t the case.

        And yet we sat down to interview the owner of Horn Cable, an immensely rich man by all accounts, and he sat in front of the camera and told us that it was a shame that journalists were being killed for telling the truth. That they were, in his words, ‘soldiers in a war for a better SOmalia” or something like that. And at the same time, he’s acting as though his company is working for the common good, he’s promoting his business and himself, saying he’s trying to help these reporters tell the truth.

        Now the problem is, it’s a nice story, but it’s all bullshit. If she, the producer, had watched about 10 minutes of HCTV (and that would have been enough, because it’s generally on a 10 min loop) she would have seen that there is no actual journalism at all on the channel and it’s famous in the Somali community for one thing and one thing only: over the top Arabic soap operas translated into Somali by one guy.

        She didn’t watch the TV, she didn’t do her research, and she didn’t listen to us. We gave her a perfectly nuanced story, and yet the final piece that aired lacked more nuance than one of these militias here in Mogadishu lacks table manners…and STILL it was eaten up by the international community, the Unions, the NGOs, Human RIghts Watch, Reporters Without Borders, all of them. They loved it, All of them promoting their political ideology, none of them with any knowledge of Somali media, none of them read Somali websites nor watch SOmali television.

        This whole protest against Jamal, these people taking to the streets here in Mogadishu, this outburst on the internet: all of it is so over the top it really makes you think. Maybe some of the people marching in the streets holding up pictures of Jamal like he was Salman RUshdie are afraid of being called guilty because they know, in the back of their minds, that they just might be guilty.

        Not everyone, but at least a few.

  2. Sister Afro, I quit reading after the 2nd paragraph. Please write a summary of your points on top for us dim wits. For me, Jamal’s analysis still holds. Journalism is a profession and must follow objective standards. When ‘journalism’ is misused as Jamal stated, then sometimes there are bad consequences.

  3. …just realised I said the wrong program….the Al-Jazeera program I was referring to was the Listening Post, not Inside Story. They both recently did pieces on journalism in Somalia, but it was the Listening Post that was shockingly bad (Inside Story was a bit better, and Jamal and Hamza both were interviewed in that piece if I’m not mistaken so it was a bit more balanced, however still missed half of the story).

    We actually shot most of the Listening Post for them, and to this day I regret that interview we did with Farhan (the owner of HCTV). We just repeated the producers stupid, poorly framed questions and let him get off saying how much he supported the journalists that worked for him, how they were soldiers in a war, how they were the real heroes fighting for the truth…all complete lies. It’s the owners, it’s him, that created this structure. It’s their greed that earns them millions of dollars and pushes the poor reporters on the ground to hustle for $100 here and there…they get paid NOTHING per month, $100 is nothing…and they refuse to pay them more. They say you want more, go out and make it…and so that is exactly what they do. It’s the owners that kill these journalists, indirectly of course.

    In my opinion, and it’s not only my opinion but I can only speak for myself, NUSOJ and their international backers should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for claiming to support and fight for Somali journalists. The owners will never pay a decent salary to their employees as long as their employees are willing to accept getting paid shit, they are in it for the business and the business alone (and it is a lucrative business for all of these owners)…but when all the journalists go on strike and say we are not working for shahuur, we don’t want to do bullshit stories for cheap we want to do real stories and we want to get paid real money for them, it’s when they all smarten up and realise the REAL POWER of an organised union to fight against top-down injustice that the system changes. Until they put down these stupid pictures of Jamal and replace them with Farhan of HCTV and Ahmed of Universal and whoever that guy is that owns Somali Channel, I can’t remember his name, and start shouting “Pay us proper or we leave”, nothing will ever change. Hiiraan has got it right, Hiiraan pays their people properly, and look at the results. Real news and a real, dedicated audience. Then, after all of that, then they think about the advertisement and voila! they make quite a bit off of sponsorship and advertisement.

    NUSOJ has them out protesting Jamal like he’s the one who refuses to pay them salaries, like he’s the one who makes millions off of their suffering. It’s really unbelievable how quick people are to shoot the messenger here.

    Sorry for the ranting, this is what happens when you’re stuck spending nights locked in a hot Somali hotel room 🙂

  4. @ Mateoit. What exactly is your argument here? It seems as if you´re suggesting that because corruption is prevalent in the Somali media landscape that we can´t ask for nuanced reporting from Somali journalists (in this case Jamal Osman) who claim that they seek to highlight this corruption. Is that it? Why should we withhold our criticism of an article because its author claims that the cause is noble?
    Afrolense´s critique of Jamal Osman´s article still stands. The importance of the context in which these journalists operate can´t be stressed enough, especially if your target audience for the article is a white audience who knows nothing or very little about Somalia. I personally would not even have bothered myself with that article if it was written by a white person (as a Somali I´m completely desentisized when it comes to generalizing/reductionist/voyeuristic accounts about Somalia and Somalis from non-Somalis) but Jamal Osman is a Somali, so Somalis who read his work must hold him accountable for his writings as a journalist especially when reporting on Somalia, because we know that his western readers and/or collegues won´t.

    As a Somali reading the debated article I ask myself three questions:

    1. What is the aim the of article?
    2. Who is the target audience for the specific article?
    3. Who is the reporter?

    1. It seems as if the intended purpose of the article is to expose corruption within Somali journalism. However, the exposé is a very poor one, because it focuses on the journalists only and not the so much on the owner of these media companies who are the biggest benefactor of this situation. It´s like doing an exposé on child soldiers only to monsterize the children with guns, without talking about the fact that they are being exploited by people far more powerful than them in a hostile environment. How do you do an exposé of corruption without also taking to account the circumstances that bring this about? How?

    2. The target audience for the article is a white audience, the fact that it was written in English, published in non-Somali media and the lack of nuance in the story is the evidence to that. This is problematic because Jamal Osman claims that his intention is to create debate on the corrupt Somali journalists, yet he uses the Guardian, a non Somali newspaper, to take this debate. If he wants to engage Somali journalists and if he seeks to change the course of Somali journalism, why not TALK TO Somali journalists instead of TALKING ABOUT them in a foreign newspaper and in a foreign language? This is where he exposes himself as a native informant. From his writing he behaves like a foreigner reporting from the frontline, completely oblivious to the circumstances of the place he´s reporting from. I mean, WTF is this:
    “In the rest of the world media outlets tend to finance themselves through sales of newspapers and/or advertisements. In Somalia it’s through corruption.” ??

    I read that and I asked myself, “Wtf..is this Anderson Cooper or Jamal Osman?”

    3. Jamal Osman is a professional journalist, he works for reputable British media outlets and last but not least he is also a Somali. Like I said, earlier, his sloppy and unnuanced analysis, would have been less alarming if it came from a white journalist wannabes like Robert Pelton Young and Jay Bahadur (I´m kinda used to that by now), but he is Somali and he knows better, so he will be critiqued when he decides to promote himself as a beacon of truth in a sea of deceit (read Somali journalists) to his white western readers on the backs of struggling Somalis.

    • No doubt that Jamal Osman is a good Somali journalist but it seems that he wrote his article without much observation of the past history from the start of the mass killings against Somali journalists’ upto now. I am not saying that all Somali journalists are so clean; one may think as inappropriate but majority those innocent journalists that were murdered for their own professions were not corrupted. Does Jamal believe that Ali Iman Sharmarke ,Mahad Ahmed Elmi ,Said Tahalil ,Hiraabe and others were assassinated because of corruption? This is indeed a transgression to the Somali journalists who immolated themselves to work in that hostile environment and still suffering. Jamal is politely asked to apologize and renounce his article.
      Jamal Osman was the only journalist from western media who had access to Alshabab senior leaders and he often defends their brutal deeds they commit to the Somali people ,It seems that Alshabab era is almost an end now ,so I female human rights activist I advice Jamal to share with his mates this bad era they are experiencing . Jamal goes to Somalia once in a blue moon so I am so much amazed why he is writing bogus articles against Somali media personals.
      I believe there will be a time that truth will be revealed.

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