Author: BBC Media Action's Abdillahi Jama, May 5 2016 - As a Somali journalist, I’ve seen a lot. As the 1991 civil war erupted in Mogadishu, bombs and bullets interrupted my journalism studies. Finding it impossible to finish - despite being in the final stage of writing up my thesis - I packed my bags to return to the relative safety of my family home in Somaliland.

On arrival, I found that war had weakened free-speech in Somaliland. There was no room for independent media and journalists were regularly harassed.

Imprisoned for setting up an independent newspaper

That’s why I helped set-up 'Voice of Hargeisa', Somaliland’s first independent newspaper. It was seen as a direct affront to the government of the time and I was imprisoned for a month along with my team. Only with the help of lawyer, Raqia Omaar (sister of former BBC Correspondent, Rageh Omaar) and a swell of public support, were we finally released.

Finding a job at Radio Hargeisa in 1992, I worked my way up the ladder from reporter to Head of Programmes.

Now, I work as a producer for BBC Media Action, helping develop Hiigsiga Nolosha (Inspirations for Life), an interactive radio show for Somali youth covering important subjects, such as relationships, unemployment and migration.

It’s at BBC Media Action that I met Sakariye, a talented young reporter employed by BBC Media Action as a radio station mentor, to strengthen the production and editorial skills of my old employer, Radio Hargeisa.

Free speech

By improving the editorial skills of station staff, we were also improving the capacity of Somali media to conduct fair and balanced reporting. Sakariye’s experience as a reporter was the perfect match for the job and I warmed immediately to his passion for free speech - reminding me of myself when I was younger.

Nurturing his talent through production training, he was able to pass on his skills to staff at Radio Hargeisa, supporting them to produce programmes focussing on youth and peace-building and help transform their production practices by upgrading them from a manual system of cassettes to digital use of Adobe software.

He also set up monthly youth groups, providing valuable feedback for our radio programmes. It was obvious that we had a talent on our hands.
One day, Sakariye gave me a call telling me proudly, “I’ve been asked to become Head of Programmes at Radio Hargeisa.”

News that he’d been promoted into my old job made me incredibly happy. But what made me even happier, was the knowledge that, despite the challenges Somali journalists have faced over the years, I’d found a small success story in Sakariye.

Click here to access this BBC Media Action blog and related links on their work in Somaliland.
Image credit: BBC Media Action

BBC Media Action
BBC Media Centre, MC3A, 201 Wood Lane
W12 7TQ
United Kingdom (UK)
Phone: 44 (0) 20 8008 0001
Fax: 44 (0) 20 8008 5970