Somalia – how can the reporter help?

Isa Ali Gedi lives in the Somalia capital Mogadishu. He told us: “I’ve lost 50% of my life. I’ve lost some of my kids. I’ve lost my house, my job. I live like the cats and dogs. I live in a hopeless place.” After we thought the interview had finished, Isa said he wanted to ask us some questions. “What can the BBC do for me?” “What can I tell my three kids?” So what is the role of the journalist? To help or to report?

The thing that makes Isa’s story particularly stark is that it’s not unusual. But are we guilty of too often turning a blind eye? And if so, are we all in some way to blame?

The chaos continues in Somalia. Heavy fighting rages on, anarchy is widespread, many people are dying, many people left refugees.

Add to that the UN has signaled it’s pulling its staff out. While out to sea, a stand-off continues with pirates holding a Ukrainian ship, loaded with military hardware.

The World Have Your Say team talked about Somalia in their meeting on Monday. Its sister programme The World Today has taken on the baton.

Our correspondent Mark Doyle has just returned from a rare visit to Mogadishu. He’ll be in the World Today studio between 0600GMT and 0730GMT, taking your questions.

What can be done for people like Isa? Who should be fixing the “ultimate failed state”?

Send us your points and questions.

23 Responses to “Somalia – how can the reporter help?”

  1. 1 Jack Hughes
    October 7, 2008 at 03:05

    What should the reporter do ?

    A big clue is in the title – he or she should report.

    David Attenborough once discussed his philosophy about filming lions eating zebras. He explained how their role was just to film what happens – not to try and change what happens.

    Another great tip from David was how he was always so enthusiastic about everyt aspect of nature – but he never took sides. You didn’t see films that were blatantly “pro-Lion” or “pro-Zebra”.

  2. 2 Mandie in Cape Coral FL
    October 7, 2008 at 03:21

    I feel it is a reporters job to follow a story. To tell it from every angle they can think of, and then tell the ending. So often you see people do stories of tragic or horrific events, illegal events, but we never hear what happened. Stay there and keep us the people informed so we don’t forget. Report to us every angle so we are informed on what we need to do to help situations.

  3. 3 parth guragain,nepal
    October 7, 2008 at 05:13

    what i see most of media take side of particular warring faction in the time of conflict.the basic rteason behind this is to enjoy the benifit of state if the particular warring faction come to power.beside this most media support definite idology.only some courageous journilist dare to report human emotion and suffering.so what i think is media should report more on human suffering during conflict.

  4. 4 Tom D Ford
    October 7, 2008 at 07:48

    “So what is the role of the journalist? To help or to report?”

    To report is to help.

    One of the most sacred things I know of is to “listen” to some human being tell their story.

    So telling that humans story to the listening audience of the world, well, in my book that’s sacred.

    If the human beings of the world respond in some way, well that’s up to human beings.

    I pay my taxes with the full intention to help my fellow man, woman, and child and I fully realize that my Dollars get misdirected to the Military-Industrial-Complex to wage wars.


  5. 5 Ogola Benard
    October 7, 2008 at 09:10

    Journalists and reporters are bound to help depending on the situation,not loosing his job and not taking sides. However,a majority of press persons also face the same situation and problem. They do not know how they can help but they help by the profession – electronic and print media. Those with other links can and would also help!

  6. 6 Max
    October 7, 2008 at 09:18

    The BBC should really be ashamed of themselves, nor reporting the full story is a blow to their credibility.

    The Question everyone should be asking themselves is as to why somalis today is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world?

    Why is Isa Ali Gedi and he’s family suffering?

    The Truth us that Isa Ali Gedi and millions of other somalis had peace in 2006 under the Union of Islamic courts which formed a new Government and had brought much needed peace and stability to Somalia.
    They had opened schools, brought back a measure of security and law and order and had even managed to chase out the hate warlords.

    Their was still one huge problem, that was problem was the United States that accused the popular Islamic courts of having links with terrorism.
    The United States then funded and armed neighbouring ethiopia to invade somalia and help bring back the chaos and the hated somali warlords that had renamed themselves the TFG Government.

    The ethiopian army still occupies somalia till this day, for two years the ethiopians have killed 20, 000 people and displaced over 2.5 million people out of the capital city.
    They are accused by Amnesty international of war crimes, rape and torture of civilians.

    I would just hope Marke Doyle can be ashamed of himself for not giving a accurate picture on what is really happening in somalia.
    The BBc seems to be part of a huge cover up of the truth

  7. 7 Roberto
    October 7, 2008 at 11:54

    RE “” Union of Islamic courts which formed a new Government and had brought much needed peacem “”

    ——— Sharia courts…….BRILLIANT!

    Just what the world needs, more sharia. Chop chop…much needed pieces.

  8. 8 Taher
    October 7, 2008 at 14:30

    When the Union of Islamic Courts imposed some order and stability in Somalia the Bush government encouraged and supported its poppet partner Ethiopia to send troops. What we have here again is the insane and incompetent and racists, ideological view that both Britain and US have taken as foreign policy in he Islamic world.

  9. October 7, 2008 at 16:26

    One thing we should remember is that the Journalist is first a human being before a reporter.

  10. 10 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    October 7, 2008 at 16:46

    Hi WHYSers!

    This question comes up again and for that I am grateful to the WHYS team for at least reminding that the role of the journalist in the dynamic and complex world in which we live is not the static, ‘stand and deliver’ routine of the 50s and 60s, if ever it were. Part of the reason I never enjoyed working as a journalist, though I was trained as one in undergrad, centred on this issue. The notion that ‘real life’ is some kind of museum which objectively yields information to the enquiring mind of a detached and presumably objective reporter, largely, for the consumption of often apolitical audiences, is a myth.

    This is not to say that reporters cannot themselves focus attention on key issues of importance and bring justice, aid, etc., in others. However, the largely inflexible notion of the journalist as removed from the context of the report is not true, at all. Hopefully, modern journalism training recognises these complexities and adjust accordingly.

  11. 11 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    October 7, 2008 at 16:51

    @ Nelson Isibor,

    I am agreed with you – our humanity (whatever that means!) should be uppermost in our minds/ consciousness, even in the business of reporting. The question, however, is: does this ‘humanity’ mean we only (?) report ‘the story’, or that we allow our report to (also) encompass to as far as is humanly and professionally responsible/ possible the realities underwhich we operate? Are these mutually exclusive?

  12. 12 Bob in Queensland
    October 7, 2008 at 16:53

    As hard-hearted as it might seem, a reporter can help one or two people by direct action–giving them money…or food…or a ride…but he can help a whole country by reporting effectively.

  13. October 7, 2008 at 17:39

    Could a journalist do both? report and help where needed.
    I agree with Nelson, you are human first.
    journalism is a career:
    compassion is human.

  14. 14 Jamily5
    October 7, 2008 at 17:44

    So, when do reporters find it acceptable to get involved? I’d like to hear experiences from journalists in the field.

  15. 15 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    October 7, 2008 at 17:50

    @ Bob in Queensland,

    Surely, this is the case. However, there is the larger (?) issue I think of the presumed objective (?) access on which such a report is premised. The reporter has to establish some kind of rapport with those within the contexts of their reports in order to give, I think, a fuller, more accurate view/ coverage of the story. Herein lies the tension between what might be considered humanity.

    Naturally, circumstances shift according to contexts. Some people are in more desperate situations than others. All will not need money, etc. However, what is needed in all situations is the wherewithal to demonstrate the kind of sensitivity to tell the stories in such a way as to truly help. The compassion and humane capacity to relate to others in such a way as not reduce them to images, words and soundbytes in a news story is what I am suggesting. Is there a way to achieve that without compromising one’s professional integrity?

  16. 16 Dennis@OCC
    October 7, 2008 at 17:54

    My question for Mark Doyle:

    Is what PROTECTIONS [safety] in all aspects do[did] you take
    during your time in the Somalian capital!


  17. 17 Dennis@OCC
    October 7, 2008 at 17:55

    Could the WHYS team post a link on the blogs, regarding the THE WORLD TODAY


  18. 18 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    October 7, 2008 at 17:58

    @ Jamily5,


  19. 19 srinivasan
    October 7, 2008 at 19:08


    This is srinivasan from Tamilnadu of India. i am hearing your live radio in bbc worldservice.
    i have a question and to spell out something about humans….

    1) why does the crisis arise? is it due to food depletion in somalia?
    if so…
    I was year of 10 or 12 i heard that Somalia is a country which is deficit of food.
    there is no food for people to eat….
    now i m 22yrs old still i m hearing the same….
    here is my question…..
    still now the same food crises exhits? or the food suppliers eats all the food in the borders of somalia?

    2) i m much worry about my generation @ somalia.
    bcos i belive that there should be equality of every human beings in global…
    no one is superior nor inferior… but the somalia…?????

    i request the global humans… treat humans as humans…

    and i would like to know what wil be the solution for this somalia?
    wat will happen to humans????

    Mark… answer the question if possible…

  20. 20 Bob in Queensland
    October 9, 2008 at 09:18

    @ jamily5 and rawpolitics

    Of course, it is possible for journalists to help a few individuals while they’re in places like Somalia. It’s very common for journalists in the field to help out with food or a little money or even basic things like access to a satellite phone for a call to a long-lost relative in Europe. At the most extreme, I know one British journalist who actually adopted a Bosnian orphan and moved her to the UK. There have also been instances where injured children have been flown out of war zones for medical treatment.

    However, I know from bitter experience how overwhelming it can be for an individual when confronted by a refugee camp full of half a million starving people. Any help the journalist can offer “on the spot” will be a drop in the ocean–far better to do an effective job of telling the story worldwide.

  21. 21 Dennis@OCC
    October 12, 2008 at 19:32

    I have to agreed with Bob in Queensland
    October 9,2008 @ 9.18am

    I think that journalists are able and willing to help out in most situations, But they are able to help only small percentage of the population…When they are doing a story…


  22. 22 Krzysztof
    October 27, 2008 at 13:10

    The role of reporter?
    First of all, as we can read in the BBC’s core values: accuracy, fairness and impartiality.
    Everything is ok unless a reporter starts losing this extremely thin border between impartiality, not only if it comes to any organization”. However here we deal with totally different situation. On one hand we have a “bloodthirsty conflict” and some victims. On the other ” the BBC’s core values”. Some journalists says that even a weather forecaster cannot say “the weather will be bad, I’s going to rain all the day”. Yea for some “rain” is a blessing, for other not.

    Anyway, my point is that a reporter shall report every aspect of a story and by that s/he can show other that there are people in need, so they can move their … and start doing something for humanity.
    Words can move the mountain!

  23. 23 terry
    December 6, 2008 at 20:34

    no way can an isamic terrorist group hold tht state , and i agree with what ethiopa did. no one in there right minds wants tht group of people next to their country. reason their always trying too push their laws somewhere else. now tht we all know tht pirates are there nato and some mideastern countrys need to mve in kill the pirates and set up a rule of law and stop guessing on what to do…….sharia law does not protect every1 the same .

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