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The forgotten victims in Somalia

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By now the whole newspaper reading world has heard of the Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout who was kidnapped in Somalia earlier this week. Some of the world is also aware that Australian snapper Nigel Brennan was also kidnapped at the same time. Google search on ""Amanda Lindhout" Somalia" and you get 4,070 results, there are also two Amanda Lindhout Facebook groups boasting nearly 2,000 members (as of this blog post).

A search on ""Nigel Brennan" Somalia" pulls up 2,950 results and he has a Facebook group with 7 members (as of this blog post). Yet scant few western media readers, African media readers or wherever readers, have heard the names of the other kidnap victims in this saga.

Search on Somalian photojournalist/guard/transaltor Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi and you'll currently find 449 Google search results, the driver from the Shamo Hotel, by the name of Marwali brings in just 10 search results and the group's driver Mahad Clise garners a grand total of 0 search results. Yet all three were kidnapped at the same time in the same place.

Statistically speaking it is the lives of the Somalians that are most at risk here. The parachuted in freelances have a decent price on their heads, they're worth holding on to. With lack of press support and/or interest, it is the local fixers, hacks, drivers and guards who are not only under-reported, but often expendable in these situations.

Arguably it is this lack of media attention that endangers them most of all. The awful irony is of course, foreign journalists cannot even begin to think of doing their jobs without the help of local fixers, drivers and guards in a place like Somalia.

I said this earlier today, but this is the key reason why The Frontline Club established the Fixer's Fund just over one year ago - to help the often undervalued and most at risk in journalism. I am not trying to belittle the danger Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan are in, but you only have to look at the whole, awful story that is the death of Ajmal Naqshbandi and the life of Daniele Mastrogiacomo to figure out who has the greatest chance of survival here. As The Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Barometer said in 2007,

According to the analysis carried out by CPJ, journalists working in war zones (especially local reporters) are usually not killed by an errant bullet. In fact, they are usually murdered. link

The photo above, by Philip Poupin, is of Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi taken on a trip to Somalia with Frontline blogger Alex Strich from when they were in country earlier this year. Here's hoping to a swift conclusion to this kidnap for all involved and not just those names on the front pages of western media outlets.


Anonymous | August 27, 2008 5:06 PM

Word on the street is that this is entirely financially motivated and has been carried out by individuals with connections to the Somali government. The westerners are very valuable. This difference in risk faced by the westerners and the Somalis is a reminder that as journalists we have a responsibility to consider the potential dangers to everyone in our party. In Mogadishu I always do as I'm told by my fixer but am continually astounded by the number of people who seem to think they know best. In Mogadishu that sort of attitude costs lives, and not always your own.

B | August 29, 2008 4:14 AM

To be fair the majority of the articles do not mention the name of Abdifatah in them, and even worse they don't mention that it was a Somalian journalist with them, but just a fixer or guard. Also in the first few days not many of the articles had Nigel's name either. Amanda's was the first name to be put in print. So of course she would have more Google results.

Also it seems ironic that Amanda's is the main name and photo in the news, but it is the Australians and Somalians who are doing the most work and putting in all the effort to find them - the Canadian government has not even issued a statement about its missing citizen.

While it is Amanda who I identify with most, I would never have considered not including Nigel and Abdifatah in my blog entry about the incident. I do fear it is Abdifatah and then Nigel who are at the most risk of being killed, but they are all in this together and hopefully will make it out together.

m. keita | August 29, 2008 5:01 PM

Day 7: Freelancers hostage in Somalia