Channel 4 News under pressure to pull down Al-Shabaab documentary
LONDON - United Kingdom-based media giant Channel 4 News is now under pressure to pull down a documentary aired a few weeks ago, in which one of the reporters interviewed Al-Shabaab deputy leader Mahat Karate, who is also the head of revenue and logistics.
As of Wednesday, The Daily Mirror reports, that the media house had received over 100 complaints from various individuals and organizations over the "Inside Al-Shabaab" feature prepared by renowned journalist Jamal Osman, with critics insisting that it glorified terrorism.
Already, a petition has been prepared in which architects are calling for the deletion of the documentary from the official social media sites of the station. The documentary which was aired on June 15 shows images of Al-Shabaab militants with critics now terming it as "hurting".
Critics argue that those who have suffered from Al-Shabaab atrocities could be horrified and probably it would damage the reputation of the country and sabotage the ongoing war against the militants. The group controls large swathes of rural central and southern Somalia.
For the last 15 years, Al-Shabaab has been fighting to topple the fragile UN-backed administration in the country but efforts by Somali National Army [SNA] and counterparts from the African Union Transition Mission [ATMIS] have made it easier to degrade the group.
The Al-Shabaab did swear allegiance to Al-Qaida and is believed to be dangerous given the large budget they operate with. Reports prepared by the United Nations indicate that Al-Shabaab runs an annual budget of up to $100 million with close to $24 million going to the purchase of weapons.
Currently, there are close to 5000 active Al-Shabaab fighters mainly in Somalia and parts of Kenya. They are consolidating control over their territory with the goal to take over the entire country and enforce strict Sharia law.
The Channel 4 News reporter Jamal Osman was granted access to Jilib town, the official capital of Al-Shabaab in Middle Jubba where he interviewed Mahat Karate. The US had placed a $5 bounty on Karate, which is yet to be located by authorities in Somalia.
Osman’s segment was released and viewers have expressed outrage at Osman’s portrayal of Somalia. Osman falsely stated that Al- Shabaab has one-third of Somalia, The Daily Mirror reported.
According to The Mirror, the petition to remove this segment from Channel 4 News states that: “The Al Shabaab is a world-recognized terrorist organization, who in the past decade have carried out multiple suicide bombings and terrorist attacks that have taken the lives of thousands of Somalis. They have also carried out multiple assassinations of many public figures and leaders who have opposed their actions.
“Osman’s segment misrepresents Somalia’s image by falsely claiming that one-third of Somalia is under the control Al- Shabaab terrorist organization.”
It also claims: “Osman has promoted Al-Shabaab’s agenda by painting them in a positive light. Osman attempted to portray Al-Shabaab as heroes, saviors, and a humanitarian organization that helps those in need during droughts and famines. Osman praises their military training and admires their leadership.
“On one of his segments, he visits a barber shop where he interviews the owner, a man named Abdirahman, who moved to Jilib – an Al-Shabaab-controlled territory. During the interview, he includes clips of Abdirahman listing all the ‘positive’ aspects of living under the control of Al-Shabaab, one of them being that he was able to overcome his drug addiction due to their banning of drugs.”
Further evidence is provided in the petition that Osman seems to have expressed appreciation for the terrorist organization.
“He expresses admiration for Al-Shabaab by claiming they are opening dozens of schools and ‘educating the future generations by teaching them subjects such as math, computer science, and English. He states they are encouraging ‘women to work, girls to go to school and that they don’t force women to cover their faces.’
“In another one of his segments, he praises Al-Shabaab for building a hospital stating it is because they are ‘worried about the health and safety of the community.
“These segments are glamorizing Al-Shabaab and promoting terrorist ideologies to younger audiences. With your help, we would like to put an end to this false depiction of the impact Al-Shabaab has had on Somalia.”
Others have also praised Osman’s segment, suggesting that Osman has helped to illuminate a crucial topic.
“Excellent reporting, thank you. All this is very important to watch,” One user shared this tweet. “This is such a birds-eye look into a really tough situation for those living in Somalia and surrounding areas,” added another.