Radio and electronic media edge out newspapers in Somalia

By Majid Ahmed in Mogadishu

December 11, 2012

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"Print media is declining day after day," Abdullahi Mohamed told Sabahi. "A few years ago, there were more than 50 daily, weekly and monthly newspapers published in Mogadishu alone, but now there are only three daily newspapers in the city."

  • Men read newspapers near the KM4 intersection in Mogadishu. A few years ago there were more than 50 newspapers in Mogadishu; today, there are only three. [Majid Ahmed/Sabahi]

    Men read newspapers near the KM4 intersection in Mogadishu. A few years ago there were more than 50 newspapers in Mogadishu; today, there are only three. [Majid Ahmed/Sabahi]

  • A studio technician at Radio Shabelle, one of Mogadishu's most popular radio stations, works on December 8th. As radio has spread across the country, print media are in trouble, journalists say. [AU-UN IST/AFP]

    A studio technician at Radio Shabelle, one of Mogadishu's most popular radio stations, works on December 8th. As radio has spread across the country, print media are in trouble, journalists say. [AU-UN IST/AFP]

Mohamed, former editor at the Ayaamaha newspaper, which folded five years ago, said print media outlets in Somalia are at their weakest point in decades.

The three remaining newspapers in Mogadishu are political publications Xog Doon and Xog Ogaal, and Horyaal Sports.

Among the prominent Mogadishu newspapers that went out of print over the past years are Qaran, Mogadishu Times, Sana'a, Shabelle Press, Ayaamaha, Mandeeq, Sky Sport, Goal, The Nation, Dalka, Panorama, Aayaha Nolosha, Codka Xuriyada and Xidigta Maanta, according to Mohamed.

"Since radio stations spread throughout Somalia in 2003 and the golden age of print media disappeared, we now find ourselves in the age of audio and electronic media," he said.

Mohamed Ahmed, chairman of the board of directors for independent newspaper Xog Doon, said the proliferation of radio stations has devastated print media.

"Somalis always prefer to follow events on the radio," he told Sabahi. "Print newspapers come out late at night and report on events of the previous day. They are no longer a source of news because readers have to buy a newspaper, while they could get the news for free."

Ahmed said companies are turning to radio and online advertisements, rather than paying for print ads. "Advertising revenues used to cover a large portion of the cost of print newspapers, but now advertisers' preference for radio ads has resulted in lower revenues for newspapers," he said.

Issa Farah, a former editor for Dalka, which shut down in early 2012, said the print media sector in Somalia is suffering from a multitude of financial problems.

"After years of being in business, dozens of newspapers in Somalia went under because they could not continue operations due to financial difficulties," he told Sabahi. "They were not able to survive in light of increasing cost of production and a decline in advertising revenue."

"With the absence of high-quality printing presses in Somalia, some Somali newspapers had to be printed in Nairobi and would then have to be transported to Somalia, which made newspaper circulation a very slow and costly process," he said.

However, Farah said he has hope for a resurgence of newspaper circulation in Somalia.

"If print media gets the right support and the National Somali Printing Press is re-opened, we will witness a new print media revolution," he said. "As a result, [print media] will be able to fulfil its vital duty for the Somali people and will continue to have substantial value even with the development of electronic journalism."

To stay competitive with electronic media and to attract readers, Farah said newspapers should not focus on news alone, but offer analysis, literature and opinion pieces.

Mohamud Hussein, a former professor of languages at Somali National University, said the decline in print media could have an adverse effect on the Somali language, as it plays a large role in its development and use.

"Electronic media in Somalia, especially Somali websites, are not subject to editing as are print media, which could negatively impact the quality of language," he said. "People browsing Somali websites can easily observe the magnitude of grammar and spelling mistakes made by contributors to those websites."

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