“Why is a U.N. diplomat comparing Somali reporters to Rwandan war criminals?” asks Anna Husarska, a senior policy adviser at the International Rescue Committee, in a column for Slate.
Background: On February 2 in Mogadishu a roadside bomb struck a vehicle containing Ugandan soldiers from the African Union. The soldiers reacted by firing on civilians, according to Somali press accounts. In an interview with Voice of America, the top UN official in Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, compared the Somali journalists behind those accounts to Radio Mille Collines, which was used to spur participation in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Writes Husarska at Slate:
The day after Ould-Abdallah’s [Radio Mille Collines comparison] the director of HornAfrik [Radio] was murdered in Mogadishu. Three days later, the director of a provincial station, Radio Abudwaq, was seriously injured when he was stabbed while attending a “reconciliation meeting” between two rival clans.
Also, “even more un-U.N.-ish,” in Husarska’s words, was Ould-Abdallah’s call “to ban all media reports.” Said Ould-Abdallah (in the same interview with VOA):
There is a need to have a truce, one month truce in reporting on Somalia. There is a need to double check the sources with your correspondent. Because they live under tremendous pressure. I am sure they are professionals. They would like to help their country. But the time has come for one month truce on reporting till there is double, triple checking, because Somalia is exceptional. We have to have exceptional checking of the news.Liz Cox Barrett is a freelance writer and graphic designer in Kalispell, Montana. She worked as a newspaper journalist in Denver and Kalispell for 20 years.