Wednesday, August 29, 2012
African journalists are meeting in Kigali to
share ideas on the future of a common strategy towards improving
communications and the media's role in supporting the operations of the
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Transitional Federal
The two-day conference which started Wednesday also attracted civil
society groups, AMISOM officials and journalists from countries,
including Somalia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Burundi, Kenya and others.
Apart from how best to tell the African story, journalists are
contributing ideas: to streamline communications within the broader
scope of AMISOM's activities as well as support to the TFG; to seek the
cooperation and support of the global mass media for AMISOM's drive to
win the hearts and minds of Somalis by highlighting the positive news
and developments taking place in Somalia.
Ahmednor Farah, a journalist of Radio Bar-Kulan, a public service
radio station in Somalia told The New Times that the media has played a
great role in popularizing AMISOM among the masses.
Farah said: "As a Somali journalist based in Somalia, although it is
difficult for us to practice our impartiality because of Al-Shabaab
terrorists targeting and killing Somali journalists, we are trying to
tell the truth is, and the role of the media is very important because
without the media, you cannot know what is going on."
"Reporting the operations and what causalities are there is very
important. Journalists from outside Somalia can play a role also by
getting involved and knowing Somalia better."
The Al-Shabaab is the al Qaida-allied terror group.
During an interactive session, Uganda's Col. Paddy Ankunda, a former
AMISOM Spokesperson, stressed that peace support operations are public
operations and the public support AMISOM is getting currently is simply
because "some people, somewhere, communicated about AMISOM properly, and
put out the right packaging."
Col. Ankunda said despite new challenges such as an expanding the
"theatre of operations" as AMISOM gains more ground in Somalia, access
for the media is crucial.
"If you don't give access to the press, then they will write what
they find. And, the media has no obligation at all to do your story.
No. You have to position yourself very well so that when they show up, you take advantage of it," Col. Ankunda said.
Patrick Gathara, a consultant with the AU/UN Information Support
Team, said "the news arena is a competition of narratives and,
perception is key."
"If AMISOM does some good job and it goes unreported, it is useless.
Engaging with the media give positive results and when you shut them out, you get negative results," Gathara said.
Wisdom Mdzungairi, a Zimbabwean journalist said such a meeting helps
African journalists to tell the African story from an African
Eloi Yao, the AMISOM Senior Head Public Information Officer, told The
New Times that the Somalia conflict is an African issue "and I think we
should all be working together to make the message reach the people."
Yao said that such a forum is good one for people to explain things
about the mission "and also helps us collaborate with media so as to
better form our communication strategy so that we can take better
decisions because we think the media are our good partners in finding
solutions to the Somalia problem."
According to Yao, it is not just for the people in troop contributing countries, but for all the African public and media.
Yao said: "Previously, people used to file their stories from what
the western media like voice of America would say but when I started
bringing journalists to Mogadishu, the perception changed. This is about
telling the true African story.
The conference is organized by AMISOM's public information unit in
consultation with the AUC's communications directorate, the AU' peace
and security department and the AU/UN information support team (IST).