Somali media consider the importance of cultural pluralism and media diversity

On 16 December 2019, 18 representatives of media associations and media operators together with independent journalists joined representatives from the Somali Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism to participate in the first awareness-raising and training workshop on ‘Media Diversity and Cultural Pluralism in Somalia’, which was organized at the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia by the Italian NGO: International Committee for the Development of the People (CISP) as part of the project “Promoting a culture of inclusion in Somalia” funded by the European Union with technical and financial support from UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa.

“This was the first workshop organized in Mogadishu that targeted media and focused on increasing their awareness and capacities to promote cultural diversity and media diversity,” said Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa. “It brought together resources from UNESCO Culture Sector and Communications and Information Sector Programmes, and builds on the momentum of similar UNESCO workshops organized in Mogadishu for Somali national authorities to promote ratification of UNESCO Conventions in the field of Culture,” she added.

The workshop included a presentation on the current status of the information, culture and tourism sector in Somalia by the Director General of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of the federal Government of Somalia, Mr. Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adala. He informed participants of the development of a National Policy for Public Engagement for the promotion of Arts and Culture in Somalia as well as its associated Action Plan for the strategic implementation of the national policy in 2020. “Media in Somalia are key vectors to reach the public to transmit the message of how culture can be used to fight extremist ideology and promote peace building and sustainable development,” said Mr. Al-Adala.

Ms. Karalyn Monteil, UNESCO Regional Advisor for Culture who participated via SKYPE, presented an introduction to the UNESCO Culture Programme and the portfolio of UNESCO Conventions in the field of Culture as well as the benefits of their ratification by Somalia. She highlighted ongoing UNESCO support to the development of the culture sector in Somalia, including: translation of UNESCO Conventions into Somali; the organization of capacity building and awareness raising workshops; and efforts to form a “Friends of Somali Culture Group” to support:  revision of the legal and policy framework for culture, capacity building in protecting and promoting culture, education and outreach as well as securing donors and partnerships. She also shared online resources for covering the culture sector in Somalia.

Mr. John Bosco, UNESCO Consultant for Communications and Information who also participated by SKYPE, led a session on Media Diversity, which focused on policies and measures to support diversity of the media, and diversity of content in the media. He shared examples of indicators of diversity in the media, and led a discussion on challenges to diversity in the media. He also raised awareness of means for monitoring diversity in the Media. In addition, he shared insights on “Investigative Journalism as a genre/tool in promoting the diversity of cultural expressions”, which underscored the role of arts and cultural coverage in media, the rights and responsibilities of journalists in the media, and ethical and safety considerations in investigative journalism.

Mr. Bosco recommended that Somali national authorities develop a national media policy, with overarching guidelines for the media sector that could be targeted to the different types of media (private, public-service media, etc), and influence national legislation. He stressed the importance of public service broadcasting and also shared information on recent UNESCO training workshops for Somali media on gender equality and safety of female journalists, which some of the participants had attended.

Ms Layla Cadceed, Chairperson of the Somali Women Journalists Rights Association, called on fellow participants, UNESCO and the national authorities to help give women a bigger role in media decision making and management, such as running their own radio stations, media houses, newspapers, television and broadcasting companies. “Women have a lot of power and the potential to promote media diversity in Somalia,” said Ms. Cadceed. “Women are involved as journalists but they more support to become leaders in the field,” she added.

All participants agreed that Somali youth, who represent 70 percent of the Somali population, need to be mobilized to protect and promote Somali culture. They asked that UNESCO find ways to involve them more in upcoming activities, such as the organization of another Somali Youth Peace Forum and the creation of UNESCO Clubs in Somali schools  to promote and protect Somali culture for sustainable development.

The workshop concluded with the Advisor to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Ibrahim Mohamed Issak, highlighting the need for more regular and in-depth training activities to be organized for the media sector in Somalia in order to increase their capacities to cover the diversity of cultural expressions in Somalia and to take the steps necessary to ensure media diversity in Somalia.

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