Since joining Twitter in December 2016 when he was running for office, Somali President Mohamed Farmajo has acquired more than 274,000 followers, but he follows only one account.
The president follows an account run by his office, Villa Somalia, shaping his entire Twitter experience around 140 characters tweets by a single account, which is not even a person. He is not reading a tweet from another human, and has tweeted 544 times as of November 30.
He is followed by most of his government officials including Prime Minister Hassan Kheyre, who himself follows two other accounts; Villa Somalia and Somalia PM which is run by his office. Kheyre has close to 78,000 followers.
Farmajo may have chosen not to view other people’s posts and stories, turning out distractions. He may want to show he is maintaining focus on what he is doing, keeping his eye on what matters most, not people’s tweets.
People use Twitter to disseminate and receive information, share their thoughts, learn and interact with others. So, why isn’t Farmajo following anyone?
The president may not want to be dragged into Somalia’s growing political crisis, or he does not give a crap what others have to say. US President Donald Trump, the world’s most-followed leader on Twitter, follows 47 accounts.
Twitter is a very conversational social platform, allowing users to communicate in a very public manner.
In 2019, 187 countries were represented through an official presence on Twitter, either by personal or institutional accounts run by heads of state and government and foreign ministers.
Somalia tops global list where journalists’ killers go unpunished
For the fifth year in a row, Somalia remains the world’s worst country when it comes to prosecuting murderers of journalists, according to a 2019 Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Global Impunity Index. The report said war and political instability have fostered a deadly cycle of violence and impunity, along with inaction by states worldwide.
Three hundred and twenty four journalists have been killed in the last 10 years for reporting and bringing news to the world, and in most cases, killers of journalists go unpunished.
For the past five years, Somalia, which topped CPJ’s impunity index, has witnessed the killing of 25 journalists without anyone being brought to trial. Fort-six journalists were killed in the country since 1992 when the last effective central government collapsed.
In the past decade, groups like al Shabab, which is fighting to topple the Somali government, have often targeted journalists with complete impunity. However, journalists were also murdered in government-controlled areas including the capital, Mogadishu. According to the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), 12 journalists were killed since 2016.
As journalists get killed, they also continue to operate in hostile environment facing attacks, arbitrary arrests and detention, intimidation, harassment, closure of media outlets, and confiscation of equipment continue.
In February, 2020, gunmen shot and killed a journalist in Afgooye town in Lower Shabelle, 28 kilometres northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, barely a week after Amnesty International released a damning report over increasing hostile environment for Somali journalists.
Abdiweli Ali Hassan was a reporter based in Mogadishu for UK-based Somali Universal TV.
In 2019, authorities in the break-away region of Somaliland blocked Hadhwanaag news website and jailed two of its journalists, shut down two TV stations, and arrested five TV journalists. In Mogadishu, in March, armed men raided Universal TV station.
In the past three decades, Somalia has had no strong central authority, and with no strong institutions to protect them, journalists became targets of their own government, clan militias, warlords, and al Shabab group.
CPJ indexed 13 countries that make up the list of the world’s worst impunity offenders representing a mix of conflict-ridden regions and more stable countries where criminal groups, politicians, government officials, and other powerful actors resort to violence to silence critical and investigative reporting.
“Unchecked corruption, ineffective institutions, and lack of political will to pursue robust investigations are all factors behind impunity,” CPJ has found.
The other 12 countries that make up the list of the world’s worst impunity offenders are Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Philippines, Afghanistan, Mexico, Pakistan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Russia, Nigeria, and India. For this index, CPJ examined journalist murders that occurred between September 1, 2009, and August 31, 2019.
“The impunity we have witnessed in these countries year after year, and the knowledge that authorities take little action against those who attack the press, cripples the ability of journalists around the world to do their job,” said CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch.
“Democratic governments cannot stand silent in the face of impunity if they want to be seen as supporting press freedom. It is imperative that journalists and their families receive the justice they deserve, and that world leaders demand accountability.”
Somali state TV wants to hire female anchors ‘based on appearance’
In your last interview, if you felt like the hiring manager was more focused on how you look, whether you smiled and your age than your qualifications for the job, you could be right.
Somalia’s state television, Somali National Television (SNTV), has advertised two news-anchor positions reserved for women, but set ‘tough conditions.’
According to the advert, some of the requirements candidates should possess include ‘younger than 25 years old, tall, thin, telegenic, and with a nice voice.’
“I was a journalist and an editor for some of the largest global media organisations for 12 years, I have never seen more insult, discrimination and misconduct than this one,” says Abdi Aynte, a former BBC and Al Jazeera editor.
“A national TV is not where to advertise and dress for women. This ads smells of other malicious intentions.”
Hours later, when the advert attracted criticism online and offline, SNTV released a revised version of the advert, and said the original ad was leaked before the directors could agree on its wordings.
It acknowledged the existence of the vacancies and a plan to recruit two female news anchors, stating the professional qualifications, but still carrying age discrimination. Applicants must be between 20 and 30 years of age, the revised advert stated.
Appearance-based discrimination occurs when someone is treated differently based on how they look, creating an imbalance between someone being evaluated for their performance versus purely based on the way they present themselves.
Somalia ‘seeks arrest’ of top journalist
Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency (NISA) has accused Harun Maaruf, a top Somali journalist based in Washington, D.C. of being a threat to the country’s security.
Harun is a VOA (Voice of America) journalist and a host of Investigative Dossier, a bi-weekly investigative programme.
He is also co-author of Inside Al Shabab, the secret history of Al qaeesa’s most powerful ally.
NISA threatens to take legal action against Harun, accusing him of having links with elements that are threat to Somalia’s national security. The intelligence agency said Harun operates outside the acceptance boundaries of journalism and warned government institutions against working with him.
NISA waxay talaabada sharciga ah ee ku haboon ku qaadaysaa Harun Macruf, oo leh xiriiro khatar ku ah amniga Qaranka, kuna kacay falal ka baxsan anshaxa warbaahinta. Waxaan hay’adaha dalka la wadaagaynaa iney ka feejignaadaan xiriirkiisa, soona wargaliyaan laamaha amniga Qaranka.
— NISA (@HSNQ_NISA) April 2, 2020
NISA did not indicate what action it would take against Harun.
Harun provides breaking news on Somalia; touching on al Shabab operations and the country’s politics and security, sometimes publishing reports critical of the government in Mogadishu. The government sees some of his reporting and publications as ‘going too far.’
This is not the first time the Somalia government threatened Harun. In December 2016, during the reign of former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the Internal Security Minister, attacked the journalist after he tweeted on an al Shabab attack on a security checkpoint.
According to an Amnesty report released in February, 2020, surge in violent attacks, threats, harassment and intimidation of media workers is entrenching Somalia as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist.
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