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AN OPEN LETTER to the BBC World Service

    AN OPEN LETTER to the BBC World Service and the BBC Somali Section Leadership
    To: Mr. Mark Thompson
    BBC World Service
    Bush House
    From: Former Announcers
    BBC Somali Service
    Date: June 20005
    Dear Mr. Thompson
    We the undersigned are former staff members of the BBC Somali Section who served at different times,
    from the early years of the Service in the 1960s to the new millennium. We belong to different age
    groups and come from different clans and from all regions of Somalia . If the present-day realities of
    strife-torn Somalia are anything to go by, such background differences as exist amongst us would ensure
    lack of commonality and no meeting of minds. Happily, that is not the case with us. What brings us
    together above all is what binds us together: our common, shared BBC experience, in particular our loyal
    association with the Somali Service and our determination to raise our voice in its defence whenever its
    integrity and reputation are on the line. Sadly, such is the situation now.
    The BBC Somali Service has been until recently the paragon among Somali broadcasting stations inside and
    outside Somalia . Its high standards, built over a period close to half a century, have been true to the
    BBC's well-known reputation for impartiality, fairness and objectivity. Unfortunately, that reputation
    has been dealt major blows since Mr. Yussuf Garad Omar was appointed as head/editor of the Somali
    Service. Needless to say, complaints among listeners that we had come to know from different sources in
    our different ways are pervasive and are in our view well-grounded. We believe that these complaints
    could be dealt with sufficiently and satisfactorily by your complaints Department. For the purpose of
    this letter, we would like to focus on two areas that are core to most complaints raised, including
    ours. The first concerns the staff of the Service and the second the quality of the programmes in terms
    of impartiality and fairness.
    Regarding the staff, Mr. Yussuf Garaad Omar, on taking charge of the Somali Section, is considered by
    almost all the announcers at the time and ourselves to have masterminded the termination of the services
    of more than half of the announcers based at Bush House-highly qualified men and women who were very
    popular with listeners- only to replace them with inexperienced novices almost all from his clan. He
    also recruited correspondents/stringers inside and outside Somalia-again almost all of them from his
    clan. Taken together, these actions are seen by most listeners as patently both clan substitution and
    clan nepotism. We are aware that this action has been sanctioned by the management of the BBC
    (innocently we would like to believe) but the Service has yet to recover from the lingering damage done
    to its reputation in this regard.
    As for the programmes, the BBC Somali Service, under Mr. Yussuf Garaad Omar' supervision, has been
    turned into a platform that would support his favoured political and clan factions against others in the
    struggle for power and resources in Somalia . Numerous cases of bias in this respect can be cited but
    one glaring example is the different treatments given to the elections of former President Abdulqasim
    Salaad Hassan and the recently elected President Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed. When the former, a relative of
    Mr. Yussuf Garaad Omar, was elected president in 2000 at a Somali peace conference organized by the
    government of Djibouti , he was given full supportive coverage by the BBC Somali Service, support which
    still continues. When, on the other hand, Mr. Abdullahi Yussuf , who is from another clan, was elected
    President in the Nairobi Somali peace conference, only scant and mainly negative coverage was granted to
    him and his government. Instead, his opponents-a group consisting of warlords, dissident MPs and
    Ministers almost all from Yussuf Garaad's clan- were given generous publicity. This is the group who
    destroyed the capital Mogadishu and Southern Somalia for the last 14 years and who are still united to
    keep it that way. Most Somalis would like them to be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity
    like other warlords in Africa and the Balkans. In giving lop-sided supportive publicity to the warlords
    and their associates, Mr Yussuf Garaad Omar has again done another major damage to the reputation of the
    Services. In the eyes of the Somali listeners, the BBC is seen to have clearly condoned Mr. Garaad
    biased actions entailing his support to his political favourites.
    What we are advocating ourselves is not uncritical support for one side or the other but the maintenance
    of the BBC's well known principles of impartiality and even-handedness.
    As we have mentioned earlier in this letter, these observations we have mentioned are only selected
    spotlights on an overall malaise that has been inflicted on the BBC Somali Service. What saddens us most
    is that this problem has been allowed to build over some years with apparently no action(s) taken by the
    BBC to redress it despite countless complaints by listeners. We ourselves are aware that many listeners
    had complained to the former Head of the African Service, Ms. Kari Blackburn, without receiving any
    response let alone any action taken to address their concerns.
    It is for this reason that we, the former staff members of the Somali Service, have come together to
    raise this matter with you. In this regard, we appeal to you to look into the running of the Somali
    Service and save it from those who may willy-nilly ruin it. The BBC Somali Service after all is the most
    cherished heritage that the British had left the Somalis for all the hundred years of its colonial rule.
    Please accept, Sir, the assurances of our highest considerations
    1 Mohamed Abshir Yussuf
    Staff member from 1961-66
    Nairobi , Kenya
    2 Osman Hassan
    BBC Somali Service 1962 -1977
    United Nations 1977-2004
    Geneva , Switzerland
    3 Osman Suguleh
    BBC Staff member 1965-1981
    4 Idris Hassan Deria
    Staff member 1969-1995
    5 Sulemaan Dahir
    Staff member 1970-1976
    Hargeisa , Somaliland , Somalia
    6 Said Farah Mohamoud
    Staff member 1977- 2000
    7 Mohamoud Hassan
    8 Mohamoud Abdi Ali Dualeh
    Staff member 1984-2000
    9 Shamsa Abdullahi Ahmed
    Until 2000
    10 Mustafa Abdi Hussein “ Shafi ”
    Until 2000
    11 Mohamed Omar Ahmed “Hydra”
    Until 2000
    12 Suleiman Hussein Barkhadle
    Until 2000
    13 Mohamed Hamud Sheikh
    Until 2000
    14 Jawahir Suleman Elmi
    Until 2000
    15 Abdullahi Hassan Fadal
    Until 2000
    16 Mohamed Ali Mohamed
    (All signatures are attached with the original letter sent to the BBC World Service)°
    CC: Mr. Jerry Timmins
    Head, Middle East and African Services
    BBC S World Service
    Bush House
    Xigasho: Mareegta Wardheernews

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