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Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 18:09 UK

BBC Somali journalist remembered

Nasteh Dahir, who worked for the BBC in the Somali coastal city of Kismayo, was shot in the chest and stomach outside his home over the weekend. Colleague Celeste Hicks pays tribute to him.

Nasteh Dahir
Nasteh Dahir had been working for the BBC Somali Service since 2005

For a journalist there is hardly anywhere more dangerous than Somalia.

Essentially off-limits to foreign journalists, the task of making sense of this country which seems to exist beyond chaos is left to the handful of young, dedicated Somalis.

They are still hanging on in a hopeless situation.

For them, journalism is more than being sent on a dangerous duty trip, stumbling across a major story, being in the right place at the right time and making their careers.

Risk and danger are present in every single day of their lives, and as the hatred and retribution grow in Somalia, they know that anything they say could be used against them.

It is not yet known who killed Nasteh Dahir, or why. But we do know that he had expressed fear for his life.

He telephoned Yusuf Garaad, head of the BBC Somali Service, on Friday to say he could not join a training course in Hargeisa because of insecurity on the road to the capital, Mogadishu.

On Saturday, he was gunned down outside his home.

He was in his twenties and had been working as a reporter for the Somali Service since 2005.

Limelight

I first came across Dahir in January 2006, while I was working as a producer on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Somalia map

He was flung into the limelight when the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), who had ruled Somalia for much of 2006, were routed from Mogadishu and fled.

Kismayo is a sultry port town, 500km (310 miles) to the south of the capital - a place rarely in the world news.

But for those few weeks when, pursued by US air force bombers, the UIC fighters sought refuge there, Dahir could be heard on all BBC World Service news outlets.

It was amazing that he was able to confidently broadcast in English at the drop of the hat - he had been brought up in a world where the education system was in tatters.

Even learning to read and write is an achievement in Somalia, after 17 years without a central government.

The next time I spoke to Dahir was in person, on a training course for BBC Somali Service reporters in Djibouti in March this year, run by Yusuf Garaad.

"A woman from BBC Focus on Africa called me once and spoke in Somali, was that you?" he said almost immediately after I met him.

He had remembered a snatched conversation in halting Somali amongst all the flurry of a big news story.

Enthusiasm

During the training course in Djibouti, Dahir stood out as a compassionate and articulate reporter.

At times I wondered why I was sitting at the front, when my experience could never match the daily dilemmas faced by those Somali reporters.

But he was not a hardened hack, addicted to scoops and bombings.

He had a variety of feature ideas - one about the UIC regrouping and living in the swampy forests around Kismayo.

We discussed how he might bring these to life and he seemed enthusiastic to make them.

When Yusuf Garaad and I left Djibouti, we knew that the young reporters were going back to desperate and dangerous situations.

I told Yusuf there was no need to worry - I did not believe it possible that one of them could be killed.

The BBC has trained Somali journalists for several years, many of them committed to reporting in an impartial, professional and balanced manner.

But the tragedy in Somalia is much greater than that. Holding those professional principles dear in such chaos is almost impossible.

In another world, Dahir could have been a brilliant young journalist; he could have come to London to work at Bush House from where the BBC World Service broadcasts.

As it is, his is just another name on a list of brutal murders.

Nasteh Dahir leaves behind a pregnant wife, Idil, and Mohammed-Sidiq, his 10-month-old son.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Somalia
02 May 08 |  Country profiles

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