The Somali Universal Televeision has long been accused of one-sided reporting from the Somali Regional State, also known as the Ogaden. Many Somalis in Western nations, who unlike their relatives back home, live in countries known for their strong freedom of speech, have repeatedly accused the owner of the television, Engineer Ahmed Abukar, of corruption.
Despite the accusations the Ogaden Diaspora members could not, until now, produce evidence supporting their allegations.
However, in this week a big scandal involving journalistic corruption and unethical conduct of media business has been unfolding for all to see.
A series of telephone conversations between a man purporting to be an Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) defector, and the director of the Liyu Police Television (locally known as ESTV) has been made public. In the first call, the director of ESTV, Mr. Abdiweli, calls a man whom Engineer Abukars Universal TV had an interview with a day earlier. Mr. Abdiweli informs the man that he got his number from Engineer Ahmed Abukar, the owner of Somali Universal TV, and continues to describe who he is and why he is calling. This entire introduction is apparently to gain the trust of the man at the other end of the phone.
What follows during the series of calls between the two men is mind-blowing revelation. Abdiweli, considered the right-hand of Ogaden administrator Abdi Momahed Omar (also known as Abdi Iley) compromises one of the greatest secrets of Abdi Iley: his contracts with media such as Somali Universal TV. He explains in a very detailed way how they buy airtime of Universal TV. At one point he even boasts that he (Abdiwali) can arrange a live interview for anyone they want at Universal TV in the middle of the night. He gives a firsthand picture of how they have bought the Engineer and his staff. He continues by mentioning how Universal TV is proving useful to them since the TV broadcasts whatever they (Abdi Iley and his people) write and prepare for any given day about the situation in Ogaden. At the climax of their conversation Abdiweli states proudly that for them, Somali Universal TV and their own ESTV is one and the same; but they prefer to use Universal TV for big issues since “people trust more the Somali Universal TV” as it is “privately owned”.
Shortly after the secretly recorded confession was made public in websites that write about the region including www.faallo.com, the Universal TV has removed the interview of the man purporting to be ONLF. It is not clear why they removed it from Youtube, but Ogaden activists in Nairobi and London said they were able to keep copies for future records before it was removed from Universal TV’s Youtube account.
Attempts to have comments from the owner of the Somali Universal TV, Engineer Ahmed Abukar, were not successful.
It is recalled that Engineer Ahmed Abukar was not only instrumental in launching ESTV for Abdi Iley, and selling journalistic services, but also for helping him connect with the otherwise Ethiopian antagonist and popular Somali cartoonist, Amin Amir, who have made a lot of propaganda for Abdi Iley despite being generally anti-Ethiopia.
Ethiopia does not allow independent media to have free access into the Ogaden.
Analysts say this is the second largest political scandal faced by Abdi Iley since the defection of Abdullahi Hussein, previous manager of Liyu Police website CakaaraNews.com, who leaked information and documents revealing Abdi Iley and his Liyu Police’s atrocities against Ogaden civilians.
It is understood that Ahmed Abukar, who is a UK citizen, has in the past faced legal threats by Ogaden Diaspora in the UK, but how they will use this new evidence, and whether they will take him to a British Court is unclear, although a lot will depend on how Ogaden activists use the newly acquired evidence against Ahmed Abukar and media corruption.
It also not clear whether this leak will have consequence on how Universal TV operates in the region, but what is for sure clear is that the vast majority of the Somali population who have already been skeptical of the impartiality of the TV will now find their suspicions reinforced.
 

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