Mrs. Kalshium Mohamed is the co-editor of the weekly 12-page Tigre newspaper. The language of the second biggest ethnic group in Eritrea, Tigre, is spoken in most parts of the country. We meet today, one of the most influential figures in the Tigre language media outlets of Eritrea. Mrs. Kalshium’s journey started some 30 years ago, way before Independence. She is a journalist with a packed schedule going back and forth from radio, TV and editorial works in the newspaper.
Journalists are always the ones to be introduced last, or even maybe never, let us change that for once… please do introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello Eritrea Profile readers! I am Kalschium Mohamed and I am a journalist. I was born in a small village outside Keren but I grew up in Keren. I was a 9th grader in Keren’s high school when I decided to join the Armed Struggle for Independence. It was 1978. It was the time of the strategic withdrawal when liberation front forces were on the strategic retreat back to Sahel in order to gather their forces and launch novel enhanced offensive. Although I was young I very well knew about the liberation movements, and it was a natural instinct that made me join the liberation front. Since then till the Independence Day, I was a freedom fighter.
- -When did you get into journalism?
It is a long story but just to make it short and clear I would explain it this way: I was at first a military trainee getting ready to acquire all there was to know in order to be a freedom fighter. However, the Eritrean Armed Struggle for Independence was more than just a ‘war’. It was a revolution. A revolution of an era and people by the people themselves. When it comes to the Eritrean Armed Struggle for Independence we simply don’t talk about bullets and destructions; it was more of a reconstruction. Therefore, every Eritrean was a freedom fighter. One big example is the fact that the front based most of its principles on people’s educational and vocational edification: there were intensive campaigns for illiteracy eradication. And for people like myself, high school dropouts, our comrades from universities would train us in acquiring several sorts of knowledge: from medicine to whatever it is, you name it! This was the vibrant dynamic which made the front youthful and lively, and, of course we were freedom fighters so we would fight and work at the same time. I studied basic medicine… for some 8 years I served as a barefoot doctor.
- -And then what happened?
With the launching of Dimtsi Hafash Radio, the clandestine radio from the fields, freedom fighters were being recruited for journalism lessons to eventually work professionally. Dimtsi Hafash started so small under bushes, but bit by bit, it started growing incredibly serving as the link between the freedom fighters in the fields and mountains and their family and friends in villages, towns and abroad! It was so loved and it meant so much to Eritreans. As it grew more programs were added. The radio had news broadcasts as well as awareness raising and entertainment programs in every ethnic language of Eritrea. And so, I was recruited for Dimtsi Hafash’s Tigre broadcast.
- -So how were your first steps as a journalist?
Basic training is compulsory. I took a set of training and worked as a junior journalist side by side with older and amazing comrades. They were all very great. I remember my mentors, martyred and alive, with utmost respect. Although I reserve a special space in my heart to all of my fellow comrades and our bitter and extremely sweet days, I recall my seniors who welcomed me to the field of journalism with zeal. I am still using their tips and guidelines.
Anyways, I started small and then got into news broadcasting and a new program which was related to health. One of the front’s slogans to the people was “better be cautious and be healthy rather than running to the hospital”. Dimtsi Hafash had an incredible followers’ rate as it was instrumental in raising health awareness and prevent epidemic diseases. By the way, our hospitals were not reserved only for freedom fighters, they gave service to civilians as well. Actually, they were our top priority.
I had an experience of 8 years in the medical field so I was doing my first radio program enthusiastically. I liked the idea of education for our people which for long had been deprived of basic health knowledge. It is easy to imagine how the enemy wouldn’t give much consideration to the ‘people’s wellbeing’. I tried to cover so many topics in my program: from prevention of epidemics, to sanitary programs and to mother and child health care. By the way, the program is still today going on! We have a radio broadcast and newspaper column for it!
- -Wow. It is impressive how the program of your youth days is still on! Let’s move on, what happened afterwards?
Things were so until independence, beautiful. After independence I had my family to look after and my studies to resume though I didn’t stop working. I took on new and wider programs of the radio, I got promoted to Department Head and I served for a while. Under the supervision of mainly the radio department, in 2010 the Tigre News Paper ‘Eritria Hadas’, was launched successfully.
- -Okay, now tell me about the newspaper.
From 2010 we have been publishing a weekly 12-pages Tigre newspaper. The topics we raise in a diversity of columns are interesting, and we asses them every now and then for some updates and better changes if needed.
- -Any shortages perhaps?
Well yes. Shortages are universally inevitable. However, what one can do is look into root causes and fix some of them. But then again, every new thing, comes side by side with new small or big problems that need to be tackled. In our case the shortage would be in human resources. Everyone is too educated in Eritrea, and the youth have a wide access to undergrad studies, so we do have educated members of society that can very well join us. However, the original Tigre speakers are of the lowlands and life in Asmara is not easy for them. Then again the life style in urban areas is expensive for anyone. But, I believe the reason to be is the fact that young educated people cannot afford to live in the city and rather choose to go back home and work there. I’d like to remind the concerned bodies to encourage young professionals to settle in Asmara so that offices like mine can benefit from human resources.
Another problem I have to mention is the absence of viable Eritria Hadas’s distribution in remote areas. In villages and towns like Gheleb, Shieb, Kerkebet and Habero there is scarce distribution of the newspaper. It should have been the other way around because these are the places where Tigre is the first language. Back in the days teachers there used to take on the responsibility of managing the distribution of the newspaper. They believed, and they very well are right, that the newspaper is useful for elementary and junior high students. Now, that has stopped and we are unhappy that the youth in remote areas are being somehow deprived of the newspaper. It personally saddens me as I want the newspaper to reach even the furthest Tigre speaking societies. That is my personal wish. And the second wish and, well plan, would be to find ways to recruit young staff for our newspaper.
- -It is my wish for you as well Mrs. Editor. But before we end I want to ask you to describe how it feels to be a female journalist in your native language, which you love so much, and most admirably, keep your job for so long?
It is an honor. Journalism is one of the few professions in the world which don’t remind you that you are actually aging. And that is because journalism is all about the present and the future. Plus, social network is nowadays has making ‘information’ the easiest thing for anyone to access and it feels simply exciting to be a direct part of such a vibe. I love it. I am sure you know how it feels because you are a young and animated journalist yourself. Also I feel grateful for being in the loop for these many years; I had the best time of my life learning from my seniors during the armed struggle, I also had a great time working with people my age for a long time and now I am working with my children… This is a blessing in which I rejoice every second. I wish the same for you and your colleagues in Eritrea Profile!
- -Thank you so much Kalshium