Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Somalia: How BBC Somali Service Misinforms Listeners

The BBC Somali Service has not learned from past mistakes—misquoting a Somali warlord and using an exclamation mark to mock him (Muuse Suudi oo is eedeeyay !); mistranslating BBC Africa editor’s sentence in an analysis (’In Djibouti there are 900 American soldiers for preventing Al Qaida from entering the Red Sea”) (US predicts Zarqawi Africa flight as “Dalka Djibouti waxaa jooga 900 oo askari oo Mareykan ah oo loogu tala galay in ay ka hortagaan al qaacida in aysan galin badda cas”) “(In Djibouti there are 900 American soldiers for preventing Al Qaida from NOT entering the Red Sea.)”; and attributing to the British government policies that tolerate extremism in universities: “The British government said that universities in UK must fight extremist views that do not encourage hatred and violence or terrorist activitie” (Dowladda dalkan Britain ayaa sheegtay in Jaamacadaha dalka ay tahay in lagala dagaallamo fikradaha xag-jirka ah ee dhiirri gelin karin nacayb iyo in ay dadku isu gacan qaadaan amaba ay fuliyaan falal argagixiso.) (Doodda Ardeyda ).

Those examples were discussed in writing and shared with Jerry Timmins, Head of Africa and Middle East Region, BBC World Service in 2006 and 2009. According to Jerry Timmins, there ‘is’ risk of defamation if listener feedback about his department is not shared with him because “it is our policy to always look in to any specific complaints when they are raised”. Why are the standards at the BBC Somali Service declining if Mr. Timmins had taken a serious look at the evidence about Somali language misuse and breach of BBC editorial guidelines after evidence has been shared with him? Why is the BBC Somali Service making the same mistakes?.

The following examples are from the BBC Somali Service website. A new report on two Somali men released from Guantanamo and handed over to the Somaliland authorities in 2009 was headlined: Somaliland Guantanamo; a news report on clashes between Somali and Oromo communities in Ethiopia’s in 2009 was headlined Soomaali Vs Oromo.

Is Guantanamo in Somaliland or does Somaliland has its own Guantanamo? What did the BBC Somali Service editors and producers have in mind when such a headline was used to mislead the readers about the two Somali men who were released from Guantanamo? Why did BBC Somali Service treat a story about people who were killed in ethnicity based clashes as a football match between two communities in Ethiopia? Last week the Somali Islamist insurgent group Harakat al-Shabaab Mujahideen demolished tombs of Somali Sheikhs in Mogadishu.

BBC Somali Service published a report on tomb demolitions by Al Shabaab and headlined it Jihaadka Qabuuraha (Jihad of/on Graves). Does the BBC view Al Shabaab’s activities as Jihad or it is how Al Shabaab describes its campaign to demolish graves? In the same week, BBC Somali Service published a report based on the detention of ‘al-Qaeda militants’ by Saudi authorities. The report was headlined Soomaali al Qaacida ah (Al Qaida Somalis), but the headline of the story in BBC News website on which the story for Somali speaking listeners and readers was based is Saudi Arabia detains dozens of ‘al-Qaeda militants‘ .

If BBC Somali Service decided to use to translate the story from English, why had the editor failed to ensure that the headline should not label Somalis as Al Qaeda operatives? Given the BBC Somali Service’s failure to learn from past mistakes, and even make more outrageous mistakes because of unfamiliarity with BBC editorial guidelines, it is unclear why BBC World Service protects mediocrity and exposes itself to accusations about having “no concept of value for money” and not having equal opportunity policy?.

The BBC World Service’s attitude towards the Somali speaking listeners and readers is disdainful. If the BBC Somali Service were a privately run radio station, the editor and his bosses would take their work seriously and ensure that journalistic misjudgments and mistakes should not tarnish the work of the Service on which many Somalis and Somali speaking listeners and readers depend for information about Somalia and the world.

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