30 November 2011

Perceptions of Journalism in Somalia

"It looks like the village is just waiting for people to die.  There is nothing you can do," says the reporter. "Everyone always comes here and says that," responds the man, "Death is in God's hands, we're all waiting for death. What else do we do? Everyone who comes here is the same. They come and take pictures, and then they leave. Nothing else, just pictures and then nothing."

Al Jazeera reports on the impact that US foreign policy has had on Somalia over the past two decades.  It is complicated, but the policies do bear some blame.  The first part of a two part series shows the present state of Mogadishu and begins to unpack how aid is impacted by foreign policy.  Bill Easterly argued last week that aid and defense should be untied, and this may be as good of a support as he can get.

Although, what stands out is not the point on foreign policy, but the story people want to be told about Somalia.  The situation remains under-reported and the present incursion by Kenya and Ethiopia has skewed reporting further away from the humanitarian situation.  The AJ reporter gets at this at the end of the episode saying, "As they do what they can to beat back death, the rest of the world is moving on. Casting our gaze and pointing our cameras elsewhere."

The challenge persists in regards to how to tell the stories in a way that will bring about meaningful change to the lives of the people covered. An interviewed women expresses her concern, "All of Somalia has a problem right now. Nothing will be left in the South.  Everyone will die. Tell the world what I am telling you right now. There are journalists coming here all the time taking pictures. Why do they not do anything?

More reporting, action and support is needed in the region.  It is possible that all go hand in hand to a certain extent.