IMS & FOJO: Media Development without Media Rights and Freedoms
Somalia is one of the countries in the world where press freedom is curbed, yet free media is striving to demonstrate resilience and continues to service the general public despite all dangers. The resilience and the repression of the independent media is destabilized by some unprincipled NGOs.
Independent media houses who endeavor to be free from federal government control and subjugation are more frustrated by double standard of certain foreign NGOs such as International Media Support – IMS, a Denmark stationed NGO and Swedish Media Institute –FOJO who were entrusted with millions of Swedish funding to aid human rights, democracy, media freedom and professionalism of media.
Frustration is not only coming from lack of support to Somalia’s beleaguered independent media, but it is more frustrating as Scandinavian NGOs are sponsoring individuals who are favored and recommended by representatives of federal government.
These IMS/FOJO supported persons who one time call themselves as media owners and one time call them editors and another time as journalists set up their own outfits with endorsement letters from federal government.
These persons who also silently work as government agents against interest of free media are known to be used by government to cover up its attacks on media and cover up its human rights abuses against journalists. Nevertheless, IMS and FOJO have nerve to subsidize this ridiculous approach that breastfeeds government agents.
Most recent is so-called training on safety of journalists and elections reporting by fictional media owners’ association which is in fact owned by two small FM stations by excluding wider media owners’ community.
The oddest thing was when they called in their training more than 5 journalists who publish love/romantic stories, and flopped even to train reporters/journalists working in politically sensitive reports and journalists who are sent to hazardous assignments.
Shabelle Media Network – the most endangered independent media house – and other prominent radio stations were sacrificed and excluded from benefiting from these badly needed trainings because IMS/FOJO do not want to support any media which is not preferred by federal government authorities and its instruments in the media.
Government’s benefit by using IMS/FOJO project in this manner is dual: to cover up its abuses of media rights, and to use IMS/FOJO project as political weapons to control the independent media, punish critical media, and undermine media freedom advocates.
Independent journalists’ community widely understand that IMS/FOJO succumbed to government’s intimidatory tactics and demands, because IMS/FOJO wanted to be darling of government while sacrificing those championing for media freedom, independent media and journalists against government domination.
This current attitude of the NGOs from Denmark and Sweden are contributing to a broader climate of fear within the media freedom community, sending a potent message that support from such a project and basic survival/recommendations depends on loyalty to the federal government. The wider Somalia’s independent media fraternity pays a heavy price for this approach to media development.
FOJO, IMS are aware of discrimination against foremost independent media and journalists as well as their involvement with government endorsed individuals, but have done little to address the problem or tackle their own role in underwriting government suppression of media rights and basic freedoms.
Donors, including Sweden the funder of this controversial FOJO and IMS program, acknowledge that aid is most effective when defined by accountability and transparency, and when programs are participatory.
But IMS/FOJO have turned a blind eye to the Federal government’s repression of journalists and independent media houses, even though they recognize human rights and basic freedoms which are denied by Somali government are central to democratic Somalia and socioeconomic development.