EDITORIAL: Meet Abdirahman Adala – Somalia’s Deputy Minister of Information – who could instead be called the Head of Disinformation. Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adala, who has an impressive 130,000 Facebook followers, brazenly misinformed all of them earlier this week. Concerningly, this wasn’t the first time. Not even by far.
Mogadishu, SOMALIA. By the Editorial Team:
On the evening of Monday, 14 August, the Deputy Information Minister shared a video allegedly displaying fleeing al-Shabaab fighters. Adala calls them “Khawarij”, a derogative term often used by Somali government officials when referring to al-Shabaab. The post attracted 1.8 thousand reactions, 1.1 comments, and over 36 thousand views by Thursday evening.
All these people have been, in fact, misinformed. Spreading misinformation, disinformation, and fake news is something that social media users need to expect when browsing the internet. It typically originates from malicious actors. In Somalia’s context, the role model in misleading the public perceptions is the terrorist group al-Shabaab. However, it has become a norm in Somalia that disinformation is disseminated by an official, who, from the title of his position, should stand at the forefront of combatting it.
Fleeing khawarij or Kenyan bandits?
The incriminating post, allegedly describing fleeing al-Shabaab fighters, was, in fact, originally posted on YouTube on 8 March 2023 by The Sambu Hub channel. The title of the video is “New KDF Drone Footage Shows Bandits running away,” where KDF stands for the Kenya Defence Forces.
Kenya has long had a problem with bandits, especially in the Northern regions. The Somali Digest could not independently verify the authenticity of the March video. Nonetheless, it clearly has nothing in common with this week’s video shared by Adala. When notified by commenters about sharing fake news, the Deputy Minister did not even care to admit the mistake and delete the post.
Al-Shabaab fighters’ alleged retreat claim is not Mr Adala’s first disinformation attempt. The Deputy Information Minister, known to be a close confidant of Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, blatantly misinformed the Somali public in the past, too.
Refusing to cover Jaalle Siyaad attack
On 24 July, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest at the Jaalle Siyaad Military Academy in Mogadishu, causing heavy casualties among the Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers. A reliable source within the state media told the Somali Digest that Mr Adala, who controls the state-owned media, imposed an information embargo on the attack. Several senior journalists allegedly strongly opposed the decision and raised concerns about the rationality of censoring the incident.
Serious transparency concerns were raised immediately after the attack. The government and relevant authorities remained silent about the incident, refraining from expressing condolences for the loss of dozens of deceased Somali soldiers. This starkly contrasted with the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), which strongly condemned the terrorist attack. The mission extended its deepest condolences to the families of those killed and wished the injured a speedy recovery. The Somali government kept silent.
Refusing to cover Las Anod conflict
In late June, the Somali Digest reported on a potential breach of journalistic ethics within Somali state-run media outlets, Somali National Television (SNTV), Radio Muqdisho, and SONNA. A knowledgeable internal source told us that Adala, together with his boss Daud Aweys, the Minister of Information, ordered not to cover the dire situation of Las Anod. The Sool region’s capital has been shelled by Somaliland forces since February, causing hundreds of thousands of people to flee.
The editors and producers have voiced their concerns about what they see as a politically driven interference in the media’s responsibility of reporting on significant national issues. However, their directors, who insisted they were merely acting under orders from the senior management, overruled their objections.
It all feels like Abdirahman Adala, Somalia’s Deputy Minister of Information, should instead be called Head of Disinformation.