Following the attack last week on southern Somalia by US forces looking to expel Al Qaeda rebels, lack of staff on the ground meant broadcasters were initially forced to rely on military sources for information, which proved to be conflicting. But More 4 News was one of few British broadcasters to report the story from inside Somalia; most other journalists were based in nearby Kenya.
Deputy editor at More 4 News, Will Thorne, said: ‘For most of the western agencies and networks it is a notoriously unstable country and it is difficult to make long-term safety assessments about it – it remains a difficult place to operate in.
‘You need the right skills set and the right team to negotiate it successfully, but it is not risk free and I don’t think you can ever be 100 per cent certain.’In June freelance cameraman and photographer Martin Adler was shot and killed in Mogadishu and in February 2005, BBC journalist Kate Peyton was also shot dead in the Somali capital.
Thorne said: ‘It is notoriously difficult to get stories out of Somalia. If you look at the wires and the websites that are there you can see that very little first hand information is available.
‘We felt it was an important story that was largely going untold, for good and obvious reasons, primarily because of the safety risks involved. ‘But we felt it was a story that we should endeavour to cover in whatever way we could.’Thorne sent journalist Nima Elbagir to the region to report, produce and direct her own material as she had good contacts, knew the region well and, being Sudanese, spoke fluent Arabic.
On the More 4 News blog Elbagir wrote: ‘Either way the security risk, as assessed before I left, has changed slightly. In fact a group of Western journalists who flew in at the weekend promptly flew out when they realised being white in Mogadishu is not necessarily a good long-term bet.’Elbagir said that the process of newsgathering in Somalia was helped by the fact that the people were ‘resolutely pan-African”. She said: ‘It is genuinely the only place in Africa I have gone – as an African – where they wouldn’t rather talk to a white face.”