Monthly Archives: March 2012

Somalia Report’s integrity problem

More precisely, Somalia Report’s problem with honesty.  When I first started casually reading Somalia Report I sensed its sketchiness, something felt off. I couldn’t figure out why I felt that its reports were unreliable so I ended up just ignoring the site all together. That is until I stumbled upon this excellent takedown of the website and its owner Robert Pelton (I’m 99.99% sure he wrote that wiki entry himself) which was followed by a number of rude and kinda racist responses by the non-Somali ‘reporters’ at SR. So I wasn’t too surprised to find out that they have been busted for making up interviews and stories this week on Twitter.

Here is the wonderful charity Horn Relief pointing out Somalia Reports completely fabricated story on an Al Shabaab looting of Horn Relief’s non-existent office in Afmadow:

Also yesterday, Somalia Report’s editor published a retraction of its interview with Somalia’s Prime Minister Abdiweli Gaas, which also turned out to be completely fabricated.  Revealingly, this demonstrates that anyone in Somalia, or claiming to be in Somalia, can write up any old nonsense, email it in an become a Somalia Report journalist. Interestingly, according to this retraction, the lapse in judgement was not made by the publishers at SR, but the hoaxer alone, who has apparently let down her family and community. As a member of this hoaxer’s community, I would like to thank you, Ms Abdi, for revealing the ineptitude and lack of professionalism of this website which has high-jacked our voices. It also backs up AfroLens criticisms of the website and their editor’s shortcuts into journalism.

I hope the folks at Somalia Report come to realise that this complete lack of understanding of journalistic ethics and cultural awareness is an obvious result of hiring non-Somali experts and individuals with no qualifications in journalism. I don’t see that happening too soon though given their previous responses to criticism. I do however hope this episode leads to greater efforts by Somalis, and all Africans, to use our own voices in the media more forcefully to tell our story. Honestly.

An inspirational little story

I came across this story as I was sorting through some old papers today and thought it was the most uplifting things I’ve read in a while. I found it in a set of US State Department unclassified documents on the Somali civil war I ordered last year but didn’t get to read through. It was in a memo authored by an exasperated US official desperately trying to arrange a UN sponsored peace conference in May 1993, but found himself hitting a brick wall with the objections of the powerful warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed, who wanted to essentially chair the conference rather than attend as a representative of his USC faction. In the memo the US official recounts a conversation with the chairman of the SSDF (Somali Salvation Democratic Front), Abshir Musa, who was disappointed with the failure to hold the conference because of Aideed’s resistance. In a “wistful, nostalgic mood”, Musa spoke of his previous close relationships with other Somali political leaders. Leaders like Mohamed Egal, the former Prime Minister of Somalia and subsequently the President of Somaliland following its secession during the civil war. Here is the recollection of the US official of the rest of the conversation;

He spoke with emotional tones of his close personal friendship with the “Somaliland” President Ibrahim Egal, with whom he was imprisoned under the dictatorial Siad regime. “Egal once gave me the greatest present I had in my entire life” Abshir told us. When Abshir was imprisoned, he said, he and Egal were both placed in solitary confinement, but in adjacent cells. They communicated with each other by tapping on the wall between their cells in the prison alphabet. One day, Abshir recounted, the prison guards took away all of Abshir’s  books — “Even my Koran. They had to handcuff me and force me to give up my copy of the Koran.” Abshir was left without human companionship and with nothing to occupy his mind. A few weeks later, Abshir said, at the time when some prisoners, including Egal, were being returned to their cells after their daily 20 minute walk for exercise, he heard a scratching at the door of his cell. Under the door, Egal had managed to slip to Abshir a few pages torn from a notebook on which he had carefully copied out several suras (chapters) of the Koran. “I memorized those verses,” Abshir told us, “And they gave me the strength to continue.”