Leyla Osman Mohamud talks passionately about the role of media in achieving peace in Somalia, but her actions talk even louder than her words.
“I always wanted to be part of the change for peace so that future generations can live a life better than me,” says this young journalist, adding that she cheated death on numerous occasions while on assignment.
Leyla witnessed the suffering of innocent civilians as a result of a senseless, decades-long war, and that experience prompted her to become a radio war correspondent.
“There were times when I got caught up in crossfire while reporting. One time, my colleagues were killed right in front of me. It was a horrifying experience that left me shattered,” Leyla recalls.
In another incident, the young broadcast journalist escaped death by a whisker when an artillery shell smashed a building she was in, while reporting live in Mogadishu. “Many people listening to the live report thought I was dead,” she says.
These two experiences were reason enough for Leyla to quit her profession, but she decided to continue and use the power of media to advocate for peace. Now a producer, presenter and newscaster at Goobjoog, a leading multi-media news organization, Leyla is determined to fight the root causes of conflict and war in her country.
“Somalia has experienced conflict for so long, and media must fully embrace its role in building peace,” she says.
Leyla’s beliefs are shared by her confreres. Yusuf Hassan, a veteran journalist, says that media can contribute to peace by credibly informing audience on relevant issues. “If the media broadcasts nothing but the truth – that is a cornerstone for peace,” Yusuf adds. Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimu, Secretary General of the National Union of Somali Journalists, adds: “Media is the channel through which dialogue can be forged to achieve peace.”
Leyla says that being a popular figure on TV and radio can be rewarding, but has its downsides in a country considered one of the most dangerous places to work as a journalist.
“It is can be very scary being a journalist in Somalia, particularly Mogadishu. I cannot go out without covering my face,” she says, but remains optimistic that all her good work will not be in vain.
Leyla strongly believes that female journalists in Somalia can play an even bigger role in fostering peace and security, given their persuasive skills.
“Women are the backbone of the society, have a better understanding of their communities and great love for people. Female journalists are in a better position to come up with the best programmes on peace and development,” she adds.