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Severe amnesia at CBC Radio?

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Severe amnesia at CBC Radio?

It sure looks like CBC host Anna Maria Tremonte and her producers at The Current urgently need treatment for a nasty case of journalistic amnesia. Just last Wednesday, Tremonte introduced a one-minute clip of the Canadian rapper K'naan. The Somali-born musician talked about how the mainstream media are missing the real story about piracy off the coast of Somalia. According to K'naan, Somalis themselves see the pirates as a kind of Coast Guard trying to defend the country's territorial waters from illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic nuclear waste.

After the K'naan clip, listeners heard nothing more except the program theme. Maybe the CBC journalists thought K'naan was just joking. Today's program devoted its last half-hour to a discussion of the problems involved in prosecuting suspected Somali pirates. Illegal fishing and toxic dumping were barely mentioned.

If The Current's producers had checked into the story, they could easily have found evidence to support what K'naan had said. For one thing, the well-respected Pacifica Radio program Democracy Now carried a lengthy interview last Tuesday with the Kenyan journalist and consultant Mohamed Abshir Waldo who was born in Somalia.

He told host Amy Goodman that a long list of European and Asian countries had been conducting illegal fishing off the coast of Somalia since 1991 when civil war erupted preventing the country from defending its territorial waters. He explained that the Somali pirates who are intercepting foreign vessels and holding their crews for ransom are desperately poor fishers trying to defend their livelihoods. They had complained, he said, for years to the European Union and the United Nations, but were completely ignored.

Mohamed Abshir Waldo went on to explain that foreign countries were also dumping toxic wastes, including nuclear materials, off the coast of Somalia. Democracy Now interviewed him after reading his report called The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other?

Mohamed Abshir Waldo's story refers to an international body called The High Seas Task Force established in 2003 by a small group of countries, including Canada, to find ways of stopping illegal fishing. In its final report, the Task Force notes that more than a decade of civil war has allowed foreign-owned fishing vessels "to plunder the seas off Somalia with impunity."

"It is estimated," the report continues, "that some 700 foreign-owned vessels are engaged in unlicensed and unregulated fishing in Somali waters, exploiting high value species such as tuna, shark, lobster and deep-water shrimp. It is highly unlikely that these resources are being fished sustainably. Many of these foreign vessels are equipped with anti-aircraft cannon and machine guns to defend themselves against Somali pirates who patrol the coast, seizing vessels and kidnapping crews, for which they demand ransoms."

Time Magazine carried its own report on Somali piracy on Saturday. Its article referred to a UN Report pointing out that it costs only about $2.50 to dump a ton of toxic wastes in the waters off the Horn of Africa. Disposing of those wastes cleanly in Europe would cost $250. Time says that today's Somali pirates are no longer fishermen, but desperadoes seeking to profit from the chaos of war and international plunder.

Looks like The Current and most of the rest of the mainstream media are missing a great David and Goliath story as they parrot the official line that the Canadian navy has joined the world's other most powerful navies to fight the scourge of international piracy. There's obviously a lot more to the story than that and Rapper K'naan handed the details to the CBC on a silver platter. But, judging by today's program, no one at The Current seems to have listened.

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