|Zooming into the Past|
The BBC Somali Service:
Informative or Failed “Soft Power” Command
For more than three decades, Somali domestic radio Services have accused Western media, BBC Somali services in particular, of spreading ‘distorted & hurtful reports’ against Somalia. From these domestic radios, it was not uncommon to hear allegations under such titles: “BBC’s Baseless speculation”, “Naked Lies”, “Fabricated reports” etc. Somali domestic media often affirmed that BBC has done this to simply undermine Somali’s national unity and territorial integrity. These local media have frequently emphasized the fact that the main objective of BBC Somali Service, which was established (in 1957), was to exert influence upon Somalis, by merely broadcasting radio programs (including cultural programs, ESL, etc) as well as news. Theoretically, such services would smooth the progress of empowering what is now known as the “Soft Power” command of the then diminishing British colonies in Africa.
At this juncture, the Forum borrows the new cliché, “Soft Power” , which was coined by Harvard University professor Joseph S. Nye, just to elaborate how important it is to attract rather than to force people into your own plans and needs. This attraction, which could lead to open a dialogue and friendship between the West and Muslim World, seems to be more feasible in today’s post-911 world than during the colonial period. According to Joseph Nye, such alluring power can emerge (in the form of influence) from cultural attraction, disseminating a country’s language, or simply broadcasting world-news in native languages. Therefore, releasing half truths/misinformation and all kinds of propaganda frequently can actually produce no attraction and could harm the reputation of the service (or command!) provider, the BBC.
In the Somali Diaspora communities, BBC critics are swelling in number. Critics maintain that the staff /and reporters of this supposed British government’s “soft power” command (The BBC Somali Services) range from disgruntled clannish editor affected by the Somali civil wars to unqualified poorly-trained reporters. These critics reiterate time and again that the prime objective of this “soft power” cultural medium should have been to create an “attraction” to mutual relationship and dialogue between the West and Somalia, instead of fabricating a sensational atmosphere conducive to civil war backing.
This misapplication drive employed upon the West’ Prime “soft power” command by its staff is not something new. In fact, this kind of misapplication has, in the past, invited suspicion and rift between the West and Somalia (see below). In addition to objectivity and accuracy in news broadcast, critics demand from the BBC that its Somali news menu should also reflect the position/and explanation of the British political views on the issue at hand, as well as a dialogue agenda that bridges the gap between the West and the Horn of Africa. Such sincerity on the part of the BBC will definitely attract more Somali listeners to tune in and make their own station to BBC Somali Services. Here, the Roobdoon Forum presents examples of sensational diatribes being aired by some Somali domestic radio Services, as a retaliatory exercise intended to highlight the BBC Somali Services’ shortcomings.
Mogadishu Radio Accuses BBC of Misreporting SRSP Congress
Mogadishu International Service in English
1100 GMT 23 Jan 1979
[Text] The British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, the biggest propaganda master of imperialist world, is continuing its gross distortion of facts on developments about Somalia and other Third World countries.
It was only yesterday that it released a biased news item regarding the current extraordinary congress by misquoting the secretary general of the SRSP [Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party], Jaalle General Mohamed Siyaad Barre, by announcing decisions which were never reached by the congress of the party. This was primarily aimed at confusing world public opinion and deliberately disregarded Somalia’s declared policy position and secondly at diverting our people’s attention from their struggle against backwardness. It is disgraceful for such a big corporation to feed its listeners with lies of such magnitude.
In response to this notorious distortion of facts, which has become a tradition for the BBC, Third World countries have in their recent meeting in Paris decided to liberate their people from monopolistic agencies and corporations, such as the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, by countering their propaganda machine in its thirst for sensational news. It is a known fact that the BBC often exploits exiles, disgruntled and antinational elements who have no political value, to serve its imperialistic interests.
The Somali people are very well aware that the BBC Somali service, being among more than 50 foreign languages which are daily broadcast by the BBC, does not in any way meet their needs to build a better and prosperous Somalia.
Our people are mature enough to understand the ulterior motives for which thousands of Pounds Sterling are spent in the Somali service yearly, and have thus nicknamed the BBC as “been been cii,” which literally means in English language: accumulated lies. The BBC is therefore making a great mistake if it self-styles itself as the sole informer of people, because the Somali people have great confidence in their mass media and leadership.
Having recognized the damage which the BBC can do to our dignity, we in Somalia warn other Third World countries to be vigilant against the danger of their propagation of these accumulated lies of corporations such as the BBC. This malicious propaganda will further strengthen our need to establish a Third World news agency which can serve best the interests of our masses by fairly reporting on latest developments in our countries.
Ali Mahdi Radio: BBC ‘Nakedly Siding’ With Aydeed
(Ali Mahdi Radio)
Mogadishu Voice of the Somali Republic in Somali
1700 GMT 26 July 1993
[News commentary read by Abdullahi Hasan Ahmad]
[Excerpts] The mass media is the conduit for passing true reports based on facts to the people and should guard against being used for selfish interests. The mass media has a duty; there should be no errors of commission or omission. BBC radio, however, has recently exposed itself by lying about the events in the country and by always giving a false picture of the UN Operation in Somalia [UNOSOM]. An article on this issue was published today in the second edition of the weekly PEN newspaper. This is the subject of our news commentary today. It has been summarized and is now read by Abdullahi Hasan Ahmad: [passage omitted]
[Ahmad] The international mass media is constantly reporting the problems existing in Somalia that arose from the civil war. This has increased the sensational journalism about our country.
The admirable work being done by the United Nations and other agencies in Somalia and the new circumstances being experienced by the country demand that the Somali people have access to relevant information about their country. They are fond of listening to radio programs in Somali. This is for the majority, but others listen in other languages. The radios that broadcast in Somali include the BBC, which has recently surprised the people by deviating from the objectives for which it was founded. It has exposed itself by nakedly siding with one faction [Aydeed’s] known by the international community as [being led by] a criminal who has committed crimes against humanity. An order has been issued for his capture and trial.
The ugly face recently worn by the BBC has been seen clearly since the UN forces destroyed the pro-Aydeed radio. The BBC then took over the work of the destroyed Aydeed radio.
Many informed people with a knowledge of journalism swear that the BBC Somali Service has replaced the destroyed pro-Aydeed radio. As proof, the intellectuals point out the similarity between the programs broadcast by the BBC and the commentaries of the destroyed pro-Aydeed radio, which used to broadcast anti-UN propaganda against the operations in Somalia which are saving the lives of Somali people. The so-called reporters who speak Somali and work in the BBC do not deserve to be singled out or have their identities exposed. It is enough that their acts reveal them as being without self-respect. Given that they are Somalis and claim Somalia, where there is a civil war, as their country, they should be objective and broadcast useful programs for the people if they have the freedom to do so. Examples of the blatant support of the BBC for Aydeed are:
1. The selection and exaggeration of reports and commentaries opposed to the United Nations and reported by individuals with selfish interests.
2. The repeat and exaggeration of reports of pro-Aydeed demonstrations, claiming that multitudes of Somali people opposed to the UN presence participate in such rallies.
3. The constant interviews with Aydeed supporters from abroad who have no information about events in the country or what the situation is there.
4. The reports on injuries caused by supersonic planes and helicopters to Somali children, which are blatantly for selfish interests. This is because such acts include the military action against Aydeed’s radio. If the BBC is honest, then why did it not report Aydeed’s bombardment of civilian residences in Mogadishu and injuries to helpless children and mothers?
5. By reducing the number of broadcasts of true reports on Somalia, which, if broadcast once, are not repeated or are omitted in the first place and instead are heard on other foreign-language radios.
6. By reporting false information contrary to the good of the Somali people, which can bring about civil war once again.
The BBC’s support for Aydeed goes much further than this and can be understood from the information crisis it is pursuing and the way the so-called Somali reporters, who are cheap with little nationalism and fear God, world Whatever ill will the so-called Somali reporters of the BBC express, thank God the Somali people have now got an international radio service with 100-percent better quality and value. This is the Voice of America, VOA, Somali Service, where Somali reporters who have gained the confidence of the people work. This is because there has been no violation of journalistic ethics observed so) far. It is unfortunate that Somali people need information which our community cannot do without.
We request that the BBC Board of Governors, especially, the management of the African Service, constantly monitor and follow up the way they select the so-called Somali reporters on Somalia, and the way they translate edit and prepare programs and organize the people they interview. This monitoring should be carried out to safeguard the past reputation of the BBC, which has been sullied by the cheap so-called reporters who prefer to incite their people given that they are living far away in London.
Ali Mahdi Radio Says BBC Reportage ‘Far From Reality’
Mogadishu Voice or the Somali Republic in Somali
1100 GMT 26 Oct 1993
[Commentary by Abdullahi Hassan Ahmed Shikhalow]
[Excerpts] Since early 1990 when the so-called dictator Siyaad Barre was still in power, Somalia has been in confusion and has experienced political crises leading to endless civil war, the effects of which are still felt countrywide. The resulting problems, which affect the whole country, have a lot to do with the participation of some international mass media in the fuelling of the civil war and the dissemination of reports to demoralize Somali citizens.
The astonishing fact is that these media are still brazenly reporting whatever they like. These radios are still busy telling lies and finding ways of tarnishing the Somali people’s dignity and honor. These radios broadcast in the Somali language, particularly the one called the BBC, which is known to most Somalis as the extremist that dishes out lies. This radio is political and broadcasts whatever its unpatriotic workers wish. It sees only the negative side of things, while employing the evil section of journalism that bases itself on a policy of saying whatever one likes in order to be heard.
This Somali service has been known for belittling what is good in the country and its development. We have evidence that it has not reported the success of the week of peace observed by the Somali communities and organizations and the recent Haawiye conference concluded in Mogadishu. Moreover, it is unlikely that it will report the victories represented by the formation of district and regional councils in the country and the like.
The BBC Somali service has habitually inundated and misled the Somali people every noon, evening and night with reports that are far from reality and the interests of the Somali people-all designed to spark off a new crisis. The Somali people have lost respect for the broadcasters, some of whom are Somalis but who are demeaning Somalia in the eyes of the world.
The BBC, which broadcasts unreasonable reports, appears to brief its reporters on ways of acting to magnify the new dictatorship meant to destroy the whole country. They are paid salaries for putting out evil and unfounded reports, heedless of the consequences. This radio is telling the biggest lies supplied to it by its misinformers who walk around but never visit the trouble spots. They have distinguished themselves by supplying reports that are far from reality, for example: the incident of a fierce battle, the criticism of the UN Operation in Somalia, misunderstandings between the United Nations and the United States, the intended release of war criminals, the stoning of Pakistani troops by the people of northern Mogadishu, and other far from-truthful reports.
The misinformers, notorious for their lies, are always ready to provide a distorted picture of the situation in the country. It is all the more regrettable that most people listen to what they say, believing that what these men, mostly foreigners, report about the country is the truth. This has led to some people grouping themselves into those who keep themselves busy by discussing the civil war and others who occupy themselves with daily conversations on politics and what the radios of the world, including the BBC, which broadcasts a lot of lies, are saying about the country.
The misleading reports and limitless fabrications broadcast by this Somali service are fully recognized for what they are by informed Somali people. The latest example was the disgusting report it broadcast on 25 October that the people of northern Mogadishu had unilaterally organized a demonstration in areas under the control of the southern groups. [passage omitted]
The Somali people, however, are fully aware of the lies this radio broadcasts, so they are at last becoming vigilant and closing their ears to the naked lies broadcast these days by the BBC to mislead international opinion.
SNA Denies Civil War ‘Raging’ in Mogadishu
(Clandestine, Pro-Aydeed Radio)
Radio Mogadishu Voice or the Great Somali People in Somali
1700 GMT 31 Oct 1993
[Text] A statement issued today by the office of the chairman of the Somali National Alliance [SNA] High Committee for Internal Affairs describes as baseless and fabricated lies reports broadcast by the world media that a civil war is raging between the Somali people living in north and south Mogadishu. The statement adds that the UN secretary general and his representatives in Mogadishu have for some time been attempting to set the Somali people against each other and have many times failed in their negative designs. For instance, the representatives organized the so-called demonstration on 25 October aimed at creating a civil war, but it was foiled by the Somali people living in north and south Mogadishu.
The statement goes on to say that there are bandit groups bankrolled by UN Operation in Somalia [UNOSOM] to violate the cease-fire and create a civil war. UNOSOM and BBC Somali Service distort the facts in Somalia and depict Mogadishu as a place where a civil war is being fought. The statement makes clear to the world there are no hostilities among the Somali people and that what has been going on is UNOSOM interference. By creating instability in Mogadishu, UNOSOM is intent on destroying the cease-fire agreement between the SNA and the United States. The statement calls on the Somali people to maintain peace and desist from disturbances.
SNF Spokesman Denies BBC Report on Security in Baardheere
Mogadishu Voice of the Somali Republic in Somali
0445 GMT 26 Oct 1992
[Text] A spokesman for the Somali National Front [SNF] said that there is no truth whatsoever in a news item carried by BBC radio on 24 October which said that there was no security in Baardheere Town in Gedo region.
The spokesman further said that since the bloodthirsty forces of the unholy alliance of the Somali National Alliance [SNA] were driven from Baardheere town, security and calm had returned to the town and the SNF and the Somali Patriotic Movement [SPA-the breakaway faction under Aden Abdullahi Nur Gabiyow] forces were now managing the security of the town which is fully under their control.
The spokesman added that the joint management of security operations by the two movements was in accordance with the agreement reached by the two sides.
In conclusion, the spokesman said that in order to minimize the high death toll, the two movements appealed to the international community, the United Nations, nongovernmental organizations, and to the people of Baardheere and its environs who are threatened with starvation.
The two movements also resolved to wage a bloody war against ruthless bandits who were bent on stealing food aid from the hungry and attacking food convoys.
Ali Mahdi Radio Comments on Media Reports
Mogadishu Voice of the Somali Republic in Somali
1700 GMT 17 Sep 1993
[Text] Listeners and friends, welcome to our commentary. Some media have formed the habit of making lies into news and exaggerating simple events in the south of Mogadishu. This is the subject of our commentary.
In the middle of 1990, during the dying hours of [former President Mohamed] Siyaad Barre’s administration, Somalia started experiencing political confusion and a lack of direction. This was the beginning of the civil war in the country. The effects were felt throughout the country. The scars of the problems that resulted from the civil war still show across the country.
Some international media had a major role in fanning the civil war and the broadcast of demoralizing reports that made Somali nationals completely lose hope. It is most amazing that even today they make news out of anything they want. Some of these media took part in the civil war of the country and are today involved in broadcasting fabricated lies.
To create new tension, some of the stations that broadcast in Somali, led by the BBC Somali section, broadcast lies. They are followed by AFP, REUTER, Radio Ethiopia, and Russia. Unfortunately, some Somalis have formed the habit of listening to them. This took place after the Somalis were divided into a group that talks about politics and others who are interested in discussing the civil war.
The Somalis with understanding are aware of these fabricated lies, especially the lies of the BBC, which is outspoken among all the radio stations and other media. We could take example of the recent reports that said that some Pakistani troops were stabbed by supporters of the president of the Government of Somalia, Mr. Ali Mahdi Mohamed. These reports, which were fabricated and baseless lies and at the same time far from the truth, were just concocted by the reporters of the BBC.
We need to ask ourselves, could the people residing in the north of Mogadishu do such a thing? They are the people who spearheaded the peace that prevails in the country. At the same time, they are the ones who appealed for UN forces to come to Somalia. The true answer is no... no, because it is not possible and it is unreasonable that the people in northern Mogadishu would behave like that.
While such are the fabricated lies of those stations, they have now started giving weight to reports from some of the so-called humanitarian agencies concerning simple events within a radius of 4 km in Mogadishu city. They fail to report the peace prevailing in the country as a whole and the success achieved by the UN Operation in Somalia [UNOSOM], assisted by the Somali people. UNOSOM has achieved objectives such as the disarmament exercise, the distribution of relief food, the reconciliation of the general public, the formation of the district assemblies and the rehabilitation of the basic infrastructure and other important issues.
We pointed out earlier the fabricated reports by some media and how they confine themselves to highlighting tension within the 4-km radius, which is part of a whole independent country.
The president of the UN Security Council, Madeleine Albright, recently visited Somalia. She visited areas, including Kismaayo. In a news conference she held at UNOSOM Headquarters in Mogadishu, she told reporters, most of whom were those who file fabricated stories from Somalia, that their stories were one-sided. These reporters were self-seekers and selfish, she said. She went on to conclude that their stories would not be believed again.
It is most astonishing that one of the reporters who works for these media recently said that it is not easy to work in a country where the basic infrastructure has collapsed and while tension prevails, but we are here in order to benefit ourselves from these essential services. We take into consideration what benefits we get and for whom we report and fabricate. We see if it is a humanitarian organization or another with an interest of its own, because we would like to emulate the millionaire heads of some international relief agencies who have enriched themselves from the humanitarian assistance for the Somali people.
While it is crystal clear for the Somali people that the lies of some of these media are baseless, we urge the Somali people to be vigilant and at the same time close their ears to those radio stations that have formed the habit of highlighting reports from the 4-km area to achieve their selfish ends.
Listeners and friends, that is the end of our commentary.
SNA Spokesman on ‘Fabricated’ Western Media Reports
(Clandestine, Pro-Aydeed Radio)
Radio Mogadishu Voice of the Great Somali People in Somali
1700 GMT 12 Sep 1993
[Excerpt] Religious leaders, intellectuals, women, youths and people from all levels of society today held a rally in the 1 July Square, Mogadishu, to protest the monstrous massacre against the Somali civilians by the U.S. and Pakistani troops. The demonstrators observed three minutes of silence for the dead and injured in the 9 September attack. Opening the rally with Qur’anic verses and a sermon, Shaykh Abdirazaq Yusuf Aden said the people killed in the attack were innocent martyrs and God would reward them with eternal paradise.
Speaking on behalf of the Somali National Alliance [SNA], Hussein Abdullahi Alasow said the world was closely watching the U.S. activities in Somalia. Mr. Hussein Abdullahi Alasow described as baseless the report broadcast by the BBC and Voice of America that a battle was fought between two communities in Mogadishu. He said the fabricated report suited the dreams and wishful thinking of the UN Operation in Somalia [UNOSOM]. Mr. Hussein Abdullahi Alasow appealed to the Somali people not to prick their ears for such state of affairs but instead become brothers and recognize that they have common enemies.
Mr. Mohamed Hassan Mohamed, a member of the Southern Somali National Movement [SSNM], who is also chairman of Marka District, first conveyed the greetings and condolences of Mr. Abdi-aziz Shaykh Yusuf, the chairman of the SSNM, to the Somali people. Mr. Mohamed Hassan Mohamed said the SNA was an organization united in the cause of saving the Somali people from the fledgling U.S. colonialists and their allies. He said the Somali people wanted peace and the reconstruction of their country. [passage omitted]
Aydeed Spokesman Rejects BBC ‘Fabrications’
(Clandestine Pro-Aydeed Radio)
Radio Mogadishu Voice of the Great Somali People in Somali
1100 GMT 2 Jan 1995
A spokesman for the Somali National Alliance, SNA, has described as ill-intentioned the untrue reports recently broadcast by the BBC Somali service. He described as fabrications the BBC’s reports that fighting had taken place in the Godka area of Mogadishu between supporters of General Mohamed Farah Aydeed and those of Ali Mahdi. The spokesman said the BBC Somali service and the spokesmen of United Nations Operation in Somalia [Unosom] had been busy for some time providing disinformation on the facts obtaining in Somalia, stirring up civil war and exaggerating. The spokesman said Unosom’s aim was to make its incorrect prediction, according to which a very bloody civil war would break out after its departure, come true, thus exonerating itself from the failure ascribed to it by the international community, and at the same time underlining that the objective of its presence in Somalia was to prevent fighting.
The BBC Somali service, which is well known for stirring up sedition among the Somali people, has now mobilized itself to propagate Unosom’s campaign of fabrications. The SNA spokesman stated that the fighting in Godka had nothing to do with SNA supporters, something the Somali people, particularly the residents of Mogadishu, were aware of.
In conclusion, the spokesman called on the Somali people to resolve their differences in a spirit of brotherhood, which was the policy of the SNA. That was the way leading toward a restoration of fraternity, love, and unity among the Somali people.
BBC Called ‘Imperialist’ Propaganda Tool
(Clandestine Pro-Aydeed Radio)
Radio Mogadishu Voice of the Great Somali People in Somali 1100 GMT
14 Feb 1995
[Commentary by Elmi Osman Farah]
Propaganda is the essential ingredient for the existence and advancement of the people, and it is one of the obvious methods used to mobilize people toward achieving the aspirations of their politicians. Radio and world television stations are some of the vocal tools used to inform the international community about global affairs. However, some of these networks are used to misinform and mislead consumers as part of broadcasters’ intrigues and ploys toward the realization of their own ends and interests, and toward confusing policies pursued by leaders of Third World countries.
The BBC is one such network. The BBC Somali service was founded in 1958 in London, the capital of one of the leading imperialist countries known for its oppressive and unjustified policies toward Third World countries. The major objective for which the BBC Somali service was founded to colonize the minds of Somalis as Britain did to most African countries.
The majority of Somalis were livestock rearers when the BBC Somali service came into being, and Somali puppets were used to propagate the objectives of that network. The BBC Somali service prepares general programs, and programs meant particularly for Africa and the Islamic world. The obvious purpose of these programs is to fight nationalist movements, and to enable the colonialists to recolonize Africa. This is neocolonialism. It is in the nature of European countries to condemn particular peoples whose country and economy they want to exploit. This is evident in the current devastating campaign the BBC Somali service has embarked on, the clear objective of which is to try to discredit and destroy the sovereignty of the Somali people following the toppling of former President Siyaad Barre’s regime. The BBC’s latest designs are meant to further divide the already divided Somali people who are victims of Siyaad’s intrigues based on divide and rule.
The BBC Somali service has succeeded in securing a commendable number of Somali listeners, according to Professor Mohamed Issa Mohamed Siyaad, who is alarmed by the Western media’s campaign to mislead and confuse developing countries. The professor, speaking at a workshop held at Hotel Sahafi in Mogadishu, said it is now time to counter imperialism and negative propaganda directed at further dividing the already divided Somali community.
This British network, which is the subject of our commentary today, has staff who are trained to champion imperialist designs. The BBC Somali team has been trained to champion the politics of division and clanism. Its members are drugged before they are taken to the studios.
This particular group uses venomous words to poison the minds of listeners since some of the contents of their broadcasts are despicable, and a product of their imagination. The group sometimes acts as experts in Somali affairs, and they claim to prescribe medicine for Somali ailments, not to mention the offensive words they use. They once described the Somali National Alliance [SNA] as the so-called SNA, in line with their campaign to dent the SNA’s credibility. Any knowledgeable person can clearly understand the sinister motive of the BBC in describing the alliance as the so-called alliance. The SNA is a popular movement whether the BBC likes it or not. We have cautioned Somali listeners of the BBC Somali service not to accept as truth or manna any trash broadcast by the BBC.
The SNA chairman once described the BBC as an imperialist propaganda tool working very hard at the destruction of Somalia. Aydeed once asked whether these BBC Somali announcers fear for their jobs, believing that if they do not champion imperialist designs their jobs will be at risk? We would like to warn our honorable people to be vigilant against the BBC’s poisonous propaganda since this venomous propaganda will only help to poison their minds and divert them from engaging in useful deeds, and discourage them from striving to mend their fences.
USC-SNA Branch Denies Committee Meeting Report
(Clandestine, Pro-Aydeed Radio)
Radio Mogadishu Voice of the Great Somali People in Somali
1700 GMT 14 Jun 95
A report issued today by the second zone [community] of the USC-SNA [United Somali Congress-Somali National Alliance] on behalf of the various sections of that community, including religious scholars, sultans, Armed Forces, popular organizations, fighters, clan chiefs, and the people of the area, strongly condemns and counters the fabricated lies which say that a meeting of USC-SNA Central Committee members has been held in southern Mogadishu. The report continues, making it clear that this fabrication is baseless, that the colonialists and their collaborators cooperated in drafting it, and that it is meant to once again sabotage the Somali community. The report adds that the Somali community will not tolerate problems that are obstacles to their development, and their future.
The executive committee of that zone also reprimanded the BBC Somali service, which has reinforced its service to colonialism by spreading news which is far from true, which shamefully wrongs the Somali officials trusted by their people, and at the same time exaggerates the position of others who have isolated themselves from their society. [passage omitted]
 Joseph S. Nye characterizes the term “soft power” as a form of influence or power that occurs when “getting others to want what you want”. See Joseph S. Nye, “Soft Power”, Foreign Policy, No. 80 (Fall 1990): 153-171. See also his book, Bound to Lead.