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According to a new brief from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, based on data from 2008-2012, there are approximately 1.6 million people living in the United States who were born in Africa.
Although these numbers do not include children born in the United States, and may well be an underestimate, the data show an extraordinary rate of growth, from 1 percent of the foreign-born population in 1970 (less than 80,000 born in Africa) to 4 percent in 2008-2012.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from this report, which was released in July 2014. The full report, with graphs, tables, and footnotes to sources, is available at https://www.census.gov/ / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/n52tulc
It also contains brief summaries of new reports on immigrant communities from six African countries, recently published by the Migration Policy Institute.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletin on migration issues, visithttp://www.africafocus.org/migrexp.php
Ebola Perspectives – Update
Except for the frenzied media spotlight on Dallas, the media has paid little attention to the role of immigrant communities from the countries most affected by Ebola, namely Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
Two exceptions, previously featured on AfricaFocus social media (visit http://www.facebook.com/AfricaFocus) – brief excepts only – click on links for stories.
Note: if readers note other such stories available on the web, please send me the links (at firstname.lastname@example.org) so that I can highlight them on AfricaFocus social media.
(1) “The fight to save the last Ebola-free district in Sierra Leone,” Washington Post, October 10, 2014 http://tinyurl.com/p5dqwz3 (scroll down after clicking)
“The last region in Sierra Leone untouched by Ebola sits in the rugged, mountainous north, in a place called the Koinadugu district. It is a poor place, dependent on small farms and gold mines, the largest of the country’s 14 districts by land size and home to 265,000 residents. The district borders Guinea, where the current Ebola outbreak began and first spilled over into Sierra Leone. Koinadugu is surrounded by districts dealing with hundreds of Ebola cases.
But Koinadugu has kept the virus at bay.
The district’s success was no accident. It has been the result of concerted, early efforts to staunch the spread of the disease, sometimes turning to novel measures, tailoring details to fit the region’s unique needs. Most of the planning has fallen to a man named Momoh Konte [a Sierra Leonean living in Washington, DC]. He, along with district government and tribal officials, have managed to do what has seemed impossible elsewhere.”
(2) “U.S. Ebola case has local West African community reaching out,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 2, 2014 http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/277781221.html
“Within hours of hearing about an Ebola diagnosis in Dallas, rattled leaders in the Twin Cities Liberian community sprang to action.
For local Liberians, the first stateside Ebola case lent new urgency to a tricky double mission: Preach vigilance to the metro area’s community of some 30,000 Liberian natives, the largest outside Africa. Ease anxieties in the wider community and the fallout from them, from Liberian restaurants losing business to Liberians fielding questions from the anxious parents of playmates.” – Editor’s Note
The Foreign-Born Population from Africa: 2008-2012
American Community Survey Briefs, ACSBR/12-16
By Christine P. Gambino, Edward N. Trevelyan, and John Thomas Fitzwater
Issued October 2014
[Excerpts only - for full text, including figures, footnotes, and downloadable tables, visit https://www.census.gov/ / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/n52tulc]
According to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey (ACS), 39.8 million foreign-born people resided in the United States, including 1.6 million from Africa, or about 4 percent of the total foreign-born population. In 1970, there were about 80,000 African foreign born, representing less than 1 percent of the total foreign-born population (Figure 1). During the following four decades, the number of foreign born from Africa grew rapidly, roughly doubling each decade.
About three-fourths of the foreign-born population from Africa came to live in the United States after 1990. The timing of this movement was driven in part by historical changes. Outmigration from Africa increased rapidly after World War II, as migrants responded to the pull of educational opportunities and jobs abroad. While the first waves of postwar migrants went to other African countries and former colonial powers of Europe, migration to the United States increased in the 1970s as economies faltered and new restrictions were placed upon immigration in Western Europe.
More immigrants from Africa were admitted to the United States after the U.S. Immigration Act of 1965, which replaced the national origin quota system favoring immigration from Europe with a new law prioritizing skilled labor, family unification, and humanitarianism. In addition, nearly a quarter of all immigrants from Africa to the United States in 2010 entered as refugees or received asylum as a result of ethnic conflict or civil war, particularly in countries such as Somalia, Liberia, and Sudan. The rate of African-born immigrants arriving and staying in the United States accelerated further as immigrant networks grew and pathways were established.
This brief discusses the size, place of birth, geographical distribution, and educational attainment of the foreign born from Africa. Data are presented at the national, state, and metropolitan levels based on the 2008-2012 ACS 5-year file.
Africans in the U.S. have high educational attainment rates.
African Regions and Countries of Birth
Of the 1.6 million foreign born from Africa in the United States, 36 percent were from Western Africa, 29 percent were from Eastern Africa, and 17 percent were from Northern Africa, followed by Southern Africa (5 percent), Middle Africa (5 per- cent), and other Africa (7 percent) (Figure 2, Table 1). Since 2000, the foreign born from Africa increased by over 700,000 persons, up from a total of 881,300. Over 490,000, or about 70 percent of that growth, has been from countries in Western and Eastern Africa.
The largest African-born populations were from Nigeria and Ghana in Western Africa; Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia in Eastern Africa; Egypt in Northern Africa; and South Africa in Southern Africa. Of these seven, the four largest were Nigeria (221,000 or 14 percent of the African-born population), Ethiopia (164,000 or 10 percent), Egypt (143,000 or 9 percent), and Ghana (121,000 or 8 percent), together constituting 41 percent of the African-born total.
Geographic distribution of the foreign-born population from Africa
Four states had more than 100,000 foreign born from Africa: New York (164,000), California (155,000), Texas (134,000), and Maryland (120,000) (Table 2). When combined, these four states represented over one-third (36 percent) of the foreign born from Africa.
Among states with at least 2,500 foreign born from Africa, Rhode Island had the highest percentage of the African born from Western Africa (82 percent), while over half of the African born in Massachusetts and New York (each 52 percent) were from this region. Over half of the foreign born from Africa in three states-Minnesota, Nevada, and Washington-were from Eastern Africa. Minnesota’s Eastern African born represented 61 percent of its African-born population, over double the national percentage and included a Somali-born population of 21,000. Florida and New Jersey (each 33 percent) and Iowa (30 percent) were among the states with the highest percentage of their African-born populations from Northern Africa. California’s large Egyptian-born population (31,000) contributed to its Northern African representation (29 percent), notably higher than the national percentage (17 percent).
The states with the highest percentage foreign born from Africa in their foreign-born populations included North Dakota and Minnesota (both 19 percent), South Dakota (17 percent), Maryland and the District of Columbia (both 15 percent) (Figure 3). Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, and New Mexico each had less than 2 percent foreign born from Africa in their foreign-born populations. Of the ten states with the largest African-born populations, five had percentages of African born in their foreign-born populations that were at least twice the national percentage: Minnesota (19 percent), Maryland (15 percent), Virginia (9 percent), and Georgia and Massachusetts (both 8 percent).
Distribution by Metropolitan Statistical Area
Metropolitan areas with the largest African-born population included New York, NY (212,000); Washington, DC (161,000); Atlanta, GA (68,000); Los Angeles, CA (68,000); and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (64,000) (Table 3). In addition to having a high number of African born, the percentage of the foreign-born population from Africa in the Washington, DC, metro area (13 percent) was more than three times the national percentage (4 percent), and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (20 percent), was five times the national percentage.
In several metropolitan areas with relatively small African-born populations, the African born nevertheless represented a high proportion of the total foreign born. These included Columbus, OH (23 percent); Baltimore, MD (13 percent); and Providence, RI (11 percent), with between 20,000 and 35,000 African foreign born. Most metropolitan areas with a high percentage of African born in their foreign-born populations were in the Midwest and Northeast regions in states such as Minnesota, Ohio, and Maine (Figure 4). It is notable that in many metropolitan areas in the western half of the country, the concentrations of African born were well below the national average. These included Los Angeles (1.5 percent), San Francisco (1.8 percent), and San Diego (2.2 percent).
With the exception of Nigeria, there was considerable variation in the top countries of birth in metropolitan areas with the largest African-born populations (Figure 5). For example, both Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston showed large numbers of Nigerians and Ethiopians. Chicago, Columbus, and New York had significant Ghanaian populations, while foreign born from Cabo Verde figured prominently in Boston and Providence (half of the African born in Providence). The largest African-origin countries for Washington, DC, were Ethiopia and Nigeria. The largest African-born populations in Minneapolis-St. Paul were from Somalia and Ethiopia. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, leading African countries of birth included Egypt, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. The largest African-origin countries in the New York metropolitan area were Egypt and Ghana, each composing just under 20 percent of the total African born.
Compared with the overall foreign- born population, the foreign born from Africa had higher levels of educational attainment (Figure 6). High levels of educational attainment among the African born are in part due to the large number of educated Africans who have chosen to emigrate and to many who come to the United States to pursue academic studies. Forty-one percent of the African-born population had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2008-2012, compared with 28 percent of the overall foreign born. Egypt (64 percent) and Nigeria (61 percent) were among the African countries of birth with the highest proportion of bachelor’s and higher degrees.
Nearly one-third of the overall foreign-born population (32 percent) had less than a high school education. This contrasts with only 12 percent for the African-born population, as represented by such countries as South Africa (3 percent), Nigeria (4 percent), and Egypt and Kenya (each 5 percent).
The difference in educational attainment among the populations from different African countries in part reflects how they immigrated to the United States. A relatively high proportion of immigrants from Africa entered the United States on diversity visas (24 percent as compared with 5 percent of the overall foreign born), which require a high school diploma or equivalent work experience. The foreign born from Somalia, who mostly entered the United States as refugees or asylees (82 percent in 2010), not as diversity migrants (1 percent in 2010), were an exception to this overall pattern. Forty percent of the Somali born had less than a high school education.
The foreign-born population from Africa is small relative to other foreign-born groups, but has experienced rapid growth in the last 40 years. Among the African- born population, the majority were born in Western Africa (36 percent), Eastern Africa (29 percent), or Northern Africa (17 percent). While traditional immigrant destinations such as New York and California have attracted the largest number of African immigrants, they account for a relatively small percentage of the total foreign born in those states. Higher concentrations of the African born in a state’s total foreign-born population are instead found in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Compared with the overall foreign-born population, a higher proportion of African born have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education.
What is the American Community Survey?
The American Community Survey (ACS) is a nationwide survey designed to provide communities with reliable and timely demographic, social, economic, and housing data for the nation, states, congressional districts, counties, places, and other localities every year. It has an annual sample size of about 3.5 million addresses across the United States and Puerto Rico and includes both housing units and group quarters (e.g., nursing facilities and prisons). The 5-year file of the ACS is designed to provide reliable statistics for small populations and small geographical areas of the United States. For information on the ACS sample design and other topics, visit <www.census.gov/acs/www/
African-Born Population by Metropolitan Statistical Area: 2008-2012 – see details on original post >>
Ten Largest African-Born Countries of Birth in the United States, 2008-2012
Nigeria 221,075 Ethiopia 164,045 Egypt 143,085 Ghana 120,785 Kenya 95,125 South Africa 83,300 Somalia 76,205 Liberia 71,060 Morocco 58,730 Sudan(including South Sudan) 41,070
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008-2012 American Community Survey, 5-year estimates, Supplemental Table 2 to Brief cited above.
Migration Population Institute, Diaspora Profiles
www.migrationpolicy.org/ – direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/kxhuyrr
There is much additional data about several African immigrant populations in a series of fact sheets published by the Migration Policy Institute in July 2014, drawing on data for 2013.. The African countries included in this series are Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and Nigeria. Although these cannot be excerpted here for copyright reasons, they are downloadable from the MPI site and can be used for personal reading and research.
Some quick highlights from each of these:
(1) Egypt: Including first and second generation, there are approximately 240,000 Egyptian immigrants and their children in the United States. Although this group has high educational attainment, there is also extreme inequality, with one in six having incomes above $140,000 while 23 percent live below the poverty line.
(2) Ethiopia: There are approximately 255,000 Ethiopian immigrants, including children born here. This has grown from a small base of about 10,000 in 1980. Nearly half are U.S. Citizens. The largest concentration is in the Washington, DC area, with significant representation as well in Minneapolis, Seattle, and Atlanta.
(3) Ghana: Approximately 235,000 Ghanaian immigrants and their American-born children live in the United States. The majority have arrived since the year 2000. They are widely distributed around the United States, with the largest concentrations in the areas of New York City and Washington, DC. The United States is the second most common destination for Ghanaian immigrants.
(4) Kenya: There are approximately 105,000 Kenyan immigrants and their children living in the United States, about 10% of whom are of Somali ethnic origin. The highest numbers are in Texas and California, with Dallas the city with the largest number of Kenyan residents.
(5) Morocco: There are approximately 85,000 Moroccan immigrants and their children, and is widely scattered around the country. The largest numbers are in New York City and surroundings.
(6) Nigeria: There are approximately 380,000 Nigerian immigrants and their children living in the United States, up from approximately 25,000 in 1980. The largest numbers are in the areas of New York City, Houston, and Washington, DC.
admin @ October 23, 2014
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“That’s not true. He was killed for the sake of the truth.”
After the evening prayer on October 21, 2012, Mohamed’s brother, a local journalist named Yusuf Warsame, was leaving a mosque in Mogadishu’s Medina neighborhood. As he made his way to a pharmacy to find relief for an earache, two pistol-wielding men stepped out of a doorway and shot him multiple times in the back.
Mohamed was turning a corner onto the same street when the shots rang out; close enough to witness the gunmen fleeing the scene.
“I saw them with my own eyes,” he says. “But I was too far away to gaze on their faces.”
Yusuf succumbed to his injuries one week later in nearby Medina Hospital, becoming the 11th Somali journalist to be assassinated in 2012. He was 22 years old. Though the attack occurred in broad daylight, no witnesses came forward, and no arrest has been made. Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked Islamist group, al-Shabab, is often fingered for killing journalists, but there is rarely enough evidence to determine guilt.
“The ones responsible are ‘unknown gunmen,'” Mohamed says. “We don’t know who they are. A government gang, al-Shabab… we just don’t know.”
Since the beginning of 2013, 23 local journalists have been murdered in Somalia, making it the most dangerous country on the African continent for media workers. Five of the victims worked for Shabelle Media Network, comprised of Shabelle Radio – one of Mogadishu’s most popular stations – as well as its online arm, Shabelle.net. Shabelle’s director, Abdi Mohamed Ismaiil, says he gets about two or three death threats per week, and they tend to adhere to a standard template.
“They tell us we’re working against Islam,” he says, puffing casually on a cigarette. “They describe the kind of car you drive, what you’re wearing — ‘blue t-shirt, black jeans,’ for example — even how you’re standing. When you look around, no one is there.”
Ismaiil says people sometimes prank-call Shabelle staff and pretend to be with al-Shabab, a joke that doesn’t sit well. “Unfortunately there’s no law against that in this country.”
Mohamed, now 19, works as a journalist for Shabelle.net, the same position his brother once held. And it is clear that his brother’s murder has left its mark. When I snap a photo of him typing furiously at his keyboard in the company’s computer lab, he jumps halfway out of his chair.
“Not my face, not my face!”
Mohamed still lives in Medina — the Mogadishu neighbourhood where the majority of journalist assassinations have taken place — and he is terrified of being identified.
“I still haven’t received any death threats,” he says. “But when your brother is killed, you become afraid. The next time I go outside, will they shoot me?”
The following day, he tells me, he’ll be moving into Shabelle headquarters full time, joining the few dozen journalists living in cramped quarters mostly on the building’s rooftop. Many barely go outside for fear of being gunned down, conducting the business of news gathering through mobile phone calls with networks of local tipsters. Moving around the city after dark is considered tantamount to suicide.
Shabelle’s imposing headquarters stands only a few hundred yards outside Mogadishu’s heavily militarized airport compound, and houses Shabelle Radio, Shabelle.net, and a sister radio station and website, SkyFM. Ringed in by concrete barricades and guarded by armed security 24 hours a day, the building resembles a barracks more than a broadcasting studio.
Despite the grim fact that two of his predecessors have been assassinated, Ismaiil has no plans to leave Mogadishu. His willingness to stay, he explains, stems from a profound belief that his work is vital to the recovery of war-torn Somalia.
“I want to do something good for my country,” he says.
It’s a common response among Somali journalist for why they’re willing to risk so much for their profession. That and the slightly less noble “I-want-to-be-famous” explanation. With Somalia’s time-honored reverence for poetry and storytelling, being a journalist – especially a radio broadcaster — promises a level prestige usually reserved for pop stars. This blend of patriotism and glory-seeking might explain why so many young Somalis are eager to throw themselves into such a dangerous and poorly paid job — typically as little as $50 to $100 per month, barely the average wage of a day labourer. That, and a dash of Islamic fatalism.
“Everybody has his day to die,” says Abdirahim Isse Addow, director of the state-owned Radio Mogadishu. “There’s nothing to fear.”
Somalia, which exited a 20-year dictatorship in 1991 only to enter a 20-year civil war, is not a place you would expect to find a thriving journalism scene. After the Somali state printing press was ransacked in 1992, state-run newspapers disappeared overnight and the number of private radio stations in the capital exploded. There are now roughly 30 private stations in Mogadishu — though with new ones continually appearing as others vanish, it’s difficult to keep track. Print media has also made a modest resurgence — despite the cost and uncertain security environment — with seven newspapers with circulations ranging from about 500 to 1,000. Online news outlets number perhaps 200, mostly created and consumed by the over 3-million strong Somali diaspora.
The sheer number of media outlets combined with the limited advertisers in Somalia mean that virtually all of them rely on private benefactors. In the absence of any national regulatory framework governing the media, however, critics say that many stations amount to little more than soapboxes for private individuals seeking to advance their interests. It’s an accusation that has dogged Shabelle, whose principal financial backer, Abdi Malik Yusuf, is a London-based businessman. Some suspect Yusuf of using Shabelle as a platform to advance his political ambitions.
“Shabelle has done some really irresponsible reporting,” says Tom Rhodes, the Nairobi coordinator for the press freedom organization Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in 2013. “Last year there were some completely unfounded stories about the mayor of Mogadishu: that he was HIV positive, that he was linked to some militia. And there are others.”
The sentiment resonates with my own experience as editor of the news website Somalia Report, where in 2012 I managed a network of over 50 local stringers. Though many were highly professional, others peddled anything from stolen photos to an entirely fabricated interview with the Somali prime minister.
“Professionalism and ethics are very low,” says Mohamed Ibrahim, a New York Times contributor and the head of the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ). “Most Somali journalists have never been to any sort of journalism school. They have a do-it-yourself mentality.”
Intense competition between media outlets, he argues, often results in a race to the bottom to be the first to report the latest rumours. Sharuur, the practice of asking for bribes in exchange for favorable reporting, is also common.
“Sharuur is the great shame of Somali journalism, and it’s what stopped me from working for local stations,” says Mohamed Odowa, who strings for the German agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).
Like Odowa, many veteran Somali journalists elect to work for foreign media outlets, where they can earn considerably more than they can at local outlets. This domestic brain drain leaves Somalia’s media scene with a pool of inexperienced reporters whose greatest assets are often bravery and determination. At Shabelle, where many of the employees are under 20 years old and few have had more than cursory training, the newsroom has the feel of a college dorm. Ill-equipped and underpaid, they are sent out to the frontlines of one of the most hostile reporting environments in the world.
“It’s said that you should never shoot the messenger, but in Somalia the messenger is routinely shot, because of the ethos of the radio station he works for,” says Rhodes.
It’s Friday night, the Islamic sabbath, and I am lounging in Shabelle’s common room with a handful of resident journalists, sipping sugary tea and watching them flip between CNN and local Somali channels. One of Shabelle’s most experienced reporters, Haji, bursts in breathlessly.
“Big news,” he announces to the room in English. Then, in Somali: “There’s been a poisoning.” An entire family, including nine children, had ingested tainted camel’s milk. All were in critical condition at Daru Shifa, a nearby hospital.
The following afternoon, I tag along with Hamdi Ali Ahmed, a cherubic reporter in her early 20s, to Daru Shifa. The older of my two bodyguards surrenders his assault rifle at the entrance, while the second stands guard outside. After a hasty pat down we make our way through a bleached corridor and into the office of the hospital administrator. But Hamdi is too late: The administrator informs her that all the poisoning patients have been discharged, so she settles for a three-minute interview. On our way back to Shabelle, Hamdi confides some suspicions to my translator.
“He’s lying,” she says. “He’s keeping the patients in isolation.”
Whether Hamdi’s supposition made its way into her final radio report, I do not know. But the episode is telling. In Somalia’s predominantly oral culture, conspiracy theories abound; rumours, innuendo, and outright slander seamlessly assume the mantle of truth. And this cultural impetus often bleeds into local journalism.
Where the rule of law is virtually non-existent, slander is often met with a deadly response. Shabelle’s reputation as one of the country’s most outspoken and controversial stations probably explains why its employees have been disproportionately targeted. But the identities of the killers — and their motives — are largely a matter of educated guesswork. Al-Shabab tends to be the default bogeyman, but determining the precise culpability of the terror group is confounded by the fact that it often claims responsibility for assassinations that it did not actually carry out.
Revealingly, of the 29 media worker killings internally documented by NUSOJ from 2011 to late 2013, only seven cases show convincing evidence of direct al-Shabab involvement — only three more than the number of murders attributed to Somali government officials. In nine cases, NUSOJ was unable even to speculate on the identities of the culprits. That in many cases assassins have been clad in Somali military uniforms — which can be obtained for about $30 at Mogadishu’s infamous Bakara market-does nothing to resolve the ambiguity.
In some instances, however, the killers’ motives are clearer. Both Shabelle director Hassan Osman “Fantastic” and reporter Ahmed Anshur were known to be investigating financial malfeasance at Mogadishu’s seaport at the time of their murders four months apart during the first half of 2012.
“Officials from the government were threatening them before they were killed,” says Omar Faruk Osman, who claims leadership of the NUSOJ along with Mohamed Ibrahim (the organization split into rival factions in early 2011.) “They were saying, ‘Don’t you know this is Mogadishu? You can die for $50 here.'”
Life may be cheap in Somalia, but the fruits of corrupt governance most certainly are not. In each year from 2009 to 2012, between one-half to four-fifths of port revenues went missing, according to financial auditor Abdirizak Fartaag, whose findings have been cited extensively in a World Bank report. In 2012, that amounted to over $25 million — for some, well worth killing for.
The Somali government has, at least publicly, acknowledged the severity of the problem. In February 2013, former Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction related to any journalist killing. That same month, Shirdon established a “Human Rights Task Force” with the aim of ending impunity.
Yet to date, only one culprit — al-Shabab gunman Aden Sheikh Abdi — has been convicted for the murder of a journalist. In July 2013, Sheikh Abdi was sentenced by a military court and executed by firing squad the following month. But it turned out to be a unique case: The journalist he had killed, Hassan Yusuf Absuge, was a direct relation of the president.
There have been reports that four gunmen are currently awaiting trial for the murder of another journalist, Zakariye Moallim, but Somalia’s then-deputy minister of information, Abdishakur Ali Mire, was unable to confirm that the suspects were in government custody. “I cannot say that we currently have other suspects in prison,” he says, “only that the security agencies have been given instructions to bring to justice those who have murdered Somali journalists.”
Yet in July 2013, the Somali cabinet introduced a highly controversial media law, which both domestic and international critics say is more about repressing and regulating the media than safeguarding journalists. Under the proposed law, the Ministry of Information controls the majority of seats on a National Media Council empowered to license media outlets and mandate minimum qualifications for journalists, as well as prohibit “false news” resulting in harm “to the country, the people or the religion.”
To its credit, the current administration has been receptive to criticism of the new law, and the Somali parliament temporarily shelved its passage pending the recommendations of an Independent Media Law Task Force formed in April. Given that the government struggles to control even the capital itself, however, it is unclear how much difference a media law will make for those facing an assassin’s gun.
Mire insists that the administration is doing what it can to improve security conditions on the ground, but balks at the idea of providing journalists with special protection: “The government’s responsibility is to protect all members of society, and journalists are part of society,” he says. “My friend, do you advise me to provide every citizen with a bodyguard?”
On 26 October 2013, the National Intelligence and Security Agency stormed Shabelle’s headquarters, battering down the gate and arresting 19 journalists and media workers within. State officials justified the eviction on the grounds that Shabelle had been illegally occupying a government building that once housed the long-defunct Somali national airline. Shabelle journalists — who claim they were beaten up and robbed by government soldiers – cited a contract allowing them to operate in the building until 2015, and say the raid was in reality about silencing the station. Shabelle was forced off the air for two months before it reestablished itself at a new location in central Mogadishu. As of this printing, four Shabelle and SkyFM journalists are still being detained in Mogadishu on charges of high treason and inciting violence, according to Human Rights Watch.
Beset by their own government on one side and Islamist militants on the other, the space in which Somali journalists can operate continues to shrink. The more experienced reporters, deluged with death threats, flee by the dozens to safety abroad only to be replaced by a fresh cadre of green recruits. “They’re exploited for their youth and bravery,” says Rhodes. As recently as 21 June, radio correspondent Yusuf Ahmed Abukar died instantly when a bomb attached to his car was remotely detonated in Mogadishu. The culprits remain at large.
There is no clear solution. The problems faced by journalists are the same intractable woes plaguing the Somali people as a whole, only more reified. Until Somalia regains a functioning government willing and able to protect its citizens, journalism training and new laws can only put patches on a fissure. Caught in an asymmetric war between government forces and insurgents — where propaganda and control of the media are as important as the outcome of a battle – Somali journalists are now seen as legitimate targets on both sides.
*Some names have been change to protect those involved.
Jay Bahadur is a Nairobi-based freelance journalist and author of The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World.
admin @ October 23, 2014