Somalia: Puntland Media in Trouble

In this file photo Puntland Journalist rally for the release of a colleague in Garowe

Somalilandsun: Local radio stations in the central Somali city of Galkayo have been shedding staff due to growing financial problems caused by the shrinking of the economy due to Coronavirus restrictions.

According to a report by Radio ErgoRadio Ergo   Most radios depend on the revenue earned from advertisements. But local businesses are spending far less these days.

Hassan Abdirahman Adan, director of Hayan Radio which broadcasts in the central Mudug region, told Radio Ergo that the radio has laid off nine of its 15 employees. The radio’s financial difficulties have been accumulating over the last three months.

“We were not getting enough advertisements and had to be frugal with the little income we had. If the revenue sources dry up, the business is unsustainable,” he said.

Radio Ergo spoke to managers at five radio stations in the city. As well as Hayan, Radio Galkayo and Voice of Peace also confirmed having let some journalists go because they could not pay their salaries.

Radio Hayan has also been affected by the inability to adapt to changes in the workplace forced by Coronavirus prevention measures. The staff did not have the option of working from home due to technical challenges and lack of equipment.

“The reporters did not have sufficient tools to work from home, including laptops and internet connections, and that came on top of the revenue shortages. This disease has affected every sector, including the media,” Hassan Abdirahman Adan told Radio Ergo.

Puntland media in trouble as coronavirus bites into the economy
Hassan Abdirahman, director of Hayan Radio at his office in Galkayo/Jabril Osman/Ergo

Programming has changed as a result of the loss of staff. Rubab Abdullahi Jama, a producer at Radio Galkayo, told Radio Ergo that she used to produce three programmes. Now she is doubling up as producer and reporter on two programmes.

The newsroom is no longer what is used to be, Rubab told Radio Ergo:

“We no longer have the large staff that we used to rely on. No more chatting and hanging around with other staff, the Coronavirus has ended all that.”

The Media Association of Puntland (MAP), a journalists’ union in the region, has distributed personal protection equipment including masks, gloves and hand sanitisers to journalists working at three radio stations in Galkayo.

However, MAP’s general secretary, Naima Muse Elmi, said that the local journalists also needed financial assistance in order to survive and support their families.

She estimated that about 300 reporters working for 30 media centres in the region had been affected. Her office continued to receive complaints from reporters who have been laid off from their jobs.

“Journalists are no different from others in society who have been adversely impacted by COVID19, but humanitarian organisations in the country don’t have any plan to help them,” Naima said.

Somali journalists have suffered long-standing challenges, including threats and imprisonment by local authorities who disregard freedom of expression. Now there are fears of media house closures, at a time when information and communication with the public around the health crisis are critical.