“I feel more confident about approaching the media now. I came to realize that journalists are not as I imagined,” commented Mohamed Ali Farah, director and co-founder of the Somali Disability Empowerment Network (SODEN) after attending Internews’ training on media literacy. His organization works to raise public awareness and understanding of disabilities.
“People with disabilities in Somalia face many challenges, starting with negative social attitudes. They are not easily employed, even when they are well qualified. And there is very little public debate on these issues. Most public buildings are not wheelchair accessible and often people assume every person with a disability is a beggar.”
Before the workshop, Mohamed Ali Farah did not trust media professionals, nor did he see them as an integral part of his communication work. “I was suspicious towards journalists and felt they often twisted people’s words, covered stories only when bribed and were not interested in civil society issues.”
Internews Project Director, Fatuma Abdulahi, agrees that bribery is still one of the most problematic issues in Somali media. “Journalists have lost credibility in the eyes of civil society organizations, so connecting them constitutes a good first step to win back trust.”
Mohamed Ali Farah agreed that collaboration with the media is key to getting his message out. “Media and journalists play an important role to bridge the information gap between civil society organizations and the public.”
Mohamed Ali Farah was immediately able to put his new skills into practice on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, when he held a well-attended press conference.