Today marks a historic event as Bilan, the first-ever all-women media team in Somalia, earns a nomination for the prominent 2023 Index on Censorship Press Freedom Award in Journalism. This nomination shines a spotlight on the audacious women of Bilan who have overcome significant obstacles to carve out a space for female journalists in a country where reporting is fraught with danger.
Formed in 2021 with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bilan has been a bastion of resilience. Somali journalists regularly encounter threats including shootings, detentions, and assaults. For women in this field, street harassment and workplace abuse are additional hurdles.
“Women warrant a prominent place in journalism, and we’re determined to secure it,” asserts Bilan’s Chief Editor, Fathi Mohamed Ahmed. Despite the risks, Bilan has been unyielding in spotlighting the multifaceted challenges Somali women face.
With UNDP’s support, Bilan exercises complete editorial freedom. The team has unveiled a series of groundbreaking reports addressing issues like discrimination against albino communities, the harrowing lives of HIV-positive Somalis, the abuse of female orphans, and the opioid crisis among Mogadishu’s women.
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner praised Bilan’s unprecedented impact on Somali media, lauding the team’s determination and skill. Bilan’s stories are disseminated via Dalsan Media Group and international outlets, including the Guardian and BBC, affirming the competence and resilience of Somali women journalists.
Bilan’s journalists are no strangers to adversity. Ahmed has reported from terrorist attack sites and endured public abuse. Reporter Kiin, who often covers refugee and IDP issues, spent her early years in a Kenyan refugee camp. The youngest member, Shukri, overcame societal disapproval to join Bilan.
“Our work dismantles baseless stereotypes and empowers women’s free expression,” says Deputy Chief Editor, Hinda Abdi Mohamoud.
The Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards recognize global figures and organizations that combat censorship. Bilan’s nomination, celebrated at a gala in London, underscores the team’s fearless journalism that transcends societal constraints.