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UK and ILO join forces to build the capacity and confidence of Somali journalists to report fairly on labour migration

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The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concluded the first ever journalists’ conference on the role journalists play in shaping the public’s attitudes towards labour migration.

Held in Mogadishu on 27 and 28 June 2022, the conference brought together 53 journalists and trade union officials from Mogadishu and the five Federal Member States. The conference was held under the theme “Breaking Stereotypes on Labour Migration: Promoting Investigative, Ethical and Professional Journalism in Somalia”.

It was organised against a backdrop of a sharp increase in the number of Somalis migrating for labour and the precarious conditions they are subjected to. This underlines the value of independent, objective, investigative and quality reporting guided by ethical reporting standards across the Somali media industry.

The conference provided participants with a better contextual understanding of the complexity and sensitivity associated with reporting on migration and labour, and the need for sound reporting techniques. A heightened awareness and critical skill set are required to appreciate that for many migrants, the risks of irregular migration are weighed up against expected positive outcomes such as remittances, financial benefits for the family and improved reputation.

The event, funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), served as a platform for robust and insightful dialogue with participants highlighting the deficit of investigative and analytical reporting that would expose the underlying drivers of labour migration from Somalia. Key challenges relating to labour and migration include the routes taken by migrants and the hazards they face, as well as the lack of domestic enforcement of the international labour standards to which Somalia is a signatory.

The Federal Government of Somalia last year ratified ILO conventions on labour migration namely Convention 97 on Migration for Employment, Convention 143 on Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions); and convention 181 on Private Employment Agencies Convention.

“As the conditions of migrants and returnees have often shown, it is important for Somali journalists to shape public debate on the issue with a focus on key drivers, the human rights of migrants and strategies for mitigation. Journalists are the watchdogs who must sound the alarm on violations,” NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman observed in his opening remarks.

Sharing their experiences, journalists admitted their current reporting angles often suffer from a narrow focus on returnees only, as opposed to the varied dimensions of the migration story.

Several confessed they had no prior experience reporting effectively on human rights and labour migration, as well as issues of stigma. Participants also alluded to a lack of awareness about the difficulties that Somali labour migrants face in destination countries. Journalists agreed to look for and report multifaceted, in-depth stories on labour migration, and to push for investigative stories. 

“Journalists must be mindful they will only be relevant and impactful on their audiences if their reports are credible, factual, analytical and offer both the local and global dimension,” Osman added.

This, the meeting acknowledged, was only possible through capacity-building activities aimed at developing the skills of journalists to report reliably, ethically and objectively on labour and migration. NUSOJ is therefore rolling out a nationwide capacity building program for journalists to enhance quality journalism that effectively reports on migration issues. 

ILO Director for Horn of Africa Countries, Alexio Musindo, who spoke to the conference, expressed his pride to be associated with the conference as well as his belief that the opportunity succeeded in better equipping journalists to produce higher quality reports on migrancy, labour and rights under local and international law.

The conference concluded on a forward-looking note, with journalists agreeing to carry out impactful reporting on labour migration and expose human traffickers through a more comprehensive coverage in Somalia as well as transit and destination countries. They were equally fervent calls for a more balanced and informed public debate across countries.