Somali Award Winning Journalist

By Paul Ndiho

November 09, 2012

Mohamed Olad Hassan is an award-winning Somali journalist.  Born in the capital, Mogadishu, he is one of the many Somali journalists who have been shot at several times by insurgent gunmen in pursuit of the truth.  Despite repeated hardships, his ability to report impartially and objectively, is remarkable.

Journalists working in war-torn countries require steely nerves and an immense amount of dedication.  Reporting from Somalia is one of the biggest challenges– and perhaps one of the most dangerous places to be a reporter.  This year alone, the committee to protect journalists (CPJ) Estimates that at least 18 members of the media have been killed in Somalia by Al-Shabaab militants.  Until recently, VOA’s Mohamed Olad Hassan was an AP/BBC correspondent based in Mogadishu and he says it’s extremely difficult to report from the Somalia.

“It’s a very tough job – – you are constantly thinking about your life, you’re thinking about your safety, and everywhere you go, you’re planning as a soldier without a gun.  So that show how risky it is. – You’re always looking around; calling people before you go for a press conference. For instance you ask people for the situation on the ground-you’re working like a security agent – rather than going to cover a story as a journalist.”

There is no strong legal framework to protect journalists in Somalia.  They express their sympathy and loyalty with red bandannas tied around their heads every time one of their own is killed.  Journalists can be caught in the crossfire of a firefight and have to run for their lives.  Video journalists are often the most endangered. Stray bullets and shrapnel from explosions can cause serious injuries.

“I was doing a live report during the Ethiopian – Al -Shabaab fighting in Mogadishu and was filling a story on the fall of one of the helicopters b that belonged to the Ethiopian military — which was shot down by the Islamic insurgents. A motor round exploded in front of my camera and it really knocked me down. I was seriously injured and taken to the hospital and after a few day i was evacuated from Mogadishu to Nairobi for treatment and that was one of my worst assignments, because i didn’t know where i was and I only regained my conscious back when I was at the hospital when i was with my friends and relatives with me.

Hassan says that Somali local radio and TV journalists are often targeted because they’re perceived to be agents of the west.

“The only reason why journalists are targeted is because they are telling what the enemy or what the Waring’s factions do not want to be heard by the outside world.”

In 2010, Harvard University’s Nieman foundation for journalism honored Mohamed Hassan with its Louis M. Lyons award for conscience and integrity in journalism.  Also in 2010, he was the recipient of the prestigious “speaker abbot award” given by British speaker of the house of commons to journalists who excel in the most difficult of circumstances while fulfilling their professional duty to report, to inform, and to alert the world to news that it needs to know.  Despite repeated hardships, Mohamed Olad Hassan continues to inspire his community and to be the voice of the voiceless.

“Journalism is our profession.  We like it, and that’s what inspires us to keep working instead of running away from our enemy. The other thing is that these guys who are killing journalists, these guys who threatening us, these guys who are making explosions, these extremists, want journalists be to salient — so that the voice of the voiceless cannot be heard. So instead of helping them to reach their goals, we’ve decided to keep working and we think that at the end of the day they will be the losers and the Somali journalists will be the winners through the blood of their fellows.”

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights recently released a report deploring the continued attacks on journalists in Somalia.  Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the high commissioner for human rights, said that they’re extremely alarmed by the continuing assault on Somalia’s media workers and journalists by Al-Shabaab and other elements.”

“The role of the media is crucial as Somalia tries to get back on its feet, and the continued regular slaughter of the country’s journalists risks stifling the media’s ability to contribute to an improvement in law and order and good governance.”

According to the u-n, the 18 journalists killed is Somalia this year, is the second highest total in the world after Syria. This includes nine killed in the past six weeks.

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