Why Did The BBC Somali Service yield to Facebook Fans Insults of a Somali Female Reporter?

by Hussein Mohamud (Suud Olat)

MINNEAPOLIS – As a child, I grew up seeing a number of young and old Somali people huddling around the radio to listen avidly to BBC Somali branch in the afternoons at cafes and restaurants. At that time, the listeners could only listen to the voices of their news anchors and reporters. Each time, the BBC Somali Service time slot was over, people continued to analyze and deliberate on the topics raised in the news. By tradition, the Somali people are an oral society that has an insatiable craving for discussing about news and reports, but they never discriminated against female reporters and news anchors. They desired for news more than anything else.

Before I get to the point, I need to look into the BBC Somali Service in particular here, their history and the evolution of their news until to this day. The BBC Somali Service began its Somali services on July 18, 1957. Until today, BBC Somali branch is the primary source for local and global news for millions of Somali people around the world. Before Somalia’s Independence, Somali section had a 15 minute-long program. In the wake of the independence, its audience doubled. Therefore, the BBC gave Somali services more airtime. When the internet revolutionized, the BBC Somali Services put many of its programs on Social Media. Because of such news modernization, the station managed to reach more than a half million subscribers and Facebook fans around the world.

A few days ago, Kaati Ciise has found herself at the center of an acrimonious religious and cultural controversy for not covering her head during reporting from Ugandan presidential elections. As soon as the BBC Somali Service posted her video clip on the BBC Facebook page, a hundred of mean-spirited and bigoted Somalis hurled a barrage of rude slurs at Kaati. Some have expressed their displeasure and resentment at the reporter’s lack of wearing Hijab. Some others went too far by inundating the page with a litany of complaints. In order to stem an increased hostile backlash on social media from flaring up, the BBC Somali Service chose to remove the video clip off its Facebook page after some overt threats directed both at the reporter and the organization grew in number.
In repose to the report that caused a major uproar, Solomon Mugera, the BBC African service editor, explained last week why they had removed the video due to concerns about the safety of staff. “People said that was against the practice of Islam that a woman appearing in public places with her head uncovered.” Said Solomon.

Video Player
Video of BBC Somali Reporter Kaati Ciise reporting on Uganda Election. She was attacked by fans of the BBC Somali News Service via Facebook for not wearing a Hijab (traditional Muslim Headscarf).

Many fans with whom I talked to, told me that the BBC should have taken down the people’s nasty comments instead. The questions we ask here are that – will the BBC Somali Service ask Kaati Ciise to cover her hair against her will? On the other hand, will BBC hire someone else who veils herself or allow headscarf-wearing female reporters to present its news?

Taking the video down also has infuriated many of its best fans around the world because the BBC should not have succumbed to the people’s intimidations and profanity. It’s a reprehensible that some trolls who hide behind the anonymity of a computer screen shove their own way of thinking down on others’ throats. Every person has the rights to choose the way they like to dress. Many believe it is up to Kaati to dress like a “modest” Muslim woman or not. People should respect people’s personal life choice. If people are that conservative, they should advise Kaati in a proper manner. When you curse and threaten someone, you are doing something contradictory to your actions. Let me reiterate that the decision to cover one’s own head should be a personal one. If what she is doing against the law, then only God can judge her and her actions.

When people subscribed to the BBC page, they did it because they all wanted to receive local and international news feed, but not to become “Islamic dress code enforcers” who have the sweeping power to order what others can and cannot wear.
Surprisingly the lady did an amazing extraordinary excellent reporting accurately and professionally they should’ve appreciate that job

In order to prevent another mayhem from happening once again, BBC should clearly define its page policy regarding comments so that its followers will understand the use of words containing obscene or profane language warrants removal of such comment. The BBC should regulate over misogynistic and vile content and comments by either censoring or deleting them. They can also prevent rude comments by specific persons or groups notorious of trolling and threatening its reporters. If those who live outside of Somalia repeatedly use malicious threats, BBC has the right to trace their IP addresses and report them to the authorities.

Hussein Mohamud better known as “Suud Olat” is a regular contributor to Shanta Post and is currently a University Student living in St. Cloud Minnesota.

Follow him on Twitter  @SuudM
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