Yesterday, I watched a BBC interview with Professor Abdi Ismail Samatar on the political rift between President of Somalia and his Prime Minister. Professor Abdi Samatar denied BBC and its viewers the full disclosure he owed. Five months ago, Professor Samatar referred to President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia as the “man on the hill”, and urged people of Mogadishu “to kick out the United Nations Mission”.
The Professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota is not a disinterested analyst on the Somali politics. He is an intellectual stakeholder, to coin a new phrase for wily scholars and former journalists who exploit the ignorance of major broadcasters to plug in their agenda under the cloak of a considered view.
BBC researchers have not done their bit to assess if the interviewee merited the honour of a political analyst. It was a waste of viewers’ time to blur the line between an informative interview and a propaganda. Some will argue that the BBC is a propaganda machine for the British State, but a careful reading of its editorial guidelines can dispel this myth. Any deviation from the editorial guidelines can be seized upon by watchful critics of the Beeb. The need for a nuanced take on a topic understandably predisposes researchers to approach any journalist or academic who has written on the country in question. Interviewing an academic who promotes violence against the United Nations staff is a new low for the BBC.
How would BBC’s domestic viewers react if it had interviewed an academic who went on record for campaigning against Boris Johnson? Would it indicate that the academic also wears the hat of an opposition party member? If the answer to both questions is yes, then a similar disclosure is warranted when the news item interview pertains to “the Third World.” Without editorial consistency, the BBC will sleepwalk into media oblivion.
© Puntland Post, 2021