Every now and then an editor in London asks whether I think it’s safe enough for a trip to Somalia. The answer is always no. It’s the biggest story in Africa and it’s just across the border from my home in Kenya- but it’s been a year since I last went there. The reason is simple: it’s probably the most dangerous place in the world to be a journalist.
Somalia has been a disaster zone for nearly 20 years but in the past year or so it’s become almost impossible for journalists – both local and foreign – to operate. That hasn’t stopped some from trying. There is a small band of incredibly brave Somali journalists who keep on working, providing near-daily reports of car bombs and shootings.
Very few of the Nairobi press corps are willing to take the risk. The New York Times’ Jeff Gettleman and Jehad Nga went to Bosasso in October but had to pay for 10 armed guards. (When I went to Bosasso this time last year I was able to walk around with no guards whatsoever.)
Even armed guards are no guarantee. Earlier today two foreign journalists and two Somalis working with them were kidnapped in Bosasso. It’s still unclear which country they are from and who they were working for although some news agencies are reporting that one of the journalists is British.
Two other western journalists, Australian photographer Nigel Brennan and Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout, were kidnapped along with their Somali colleagues in August. They are still being held. The Frontline blogger has been following the case since the start.
A small part of me admires the balls of someone willing to put their life on the line reporting on one of the world’s biggest crises. A far larger part reckons anyone journalist who wants to go to Somalia is an idiot.