Attempts to Improve Press Freedom in Yemen Come Under Attack

Article Summary
During Yemen’s uprising against the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the media was co-opted by the authorities and forced to broadcast pro-government propaganda, explains Yemeni journalist Adel Moazzab. Recently, the country’s new Minister for Information has attempted to restore the dignity and legitimacy of the country’s media outlets; but he has come under attack from reactionaries who seek to maintain a stranglehold on press freedom in Yemen, the accuses the author.

The official media in Yemen truly has returned to the way it was - professional and unbiased. It has lacked these characteristics in recent times, instead aiming to mislead the Yemeni people. [Reporters, newscasters] and editors were forced to say things that were against their principles and morals. This included circulating reports and rumors that were used to falsify the truth and sow discord among [the population] over the past months. Many free journalists refused to partake in this form of blackmail that was perpetrated at the expense of the Yemeni lives and opted to join the [protestors in the squares]. These journalists gave a voice to important messages from the squares, and played a key role in championing change [in the political order]. [They were crucial in transforming] the media from an engine of support for the [ruling] family to [a free entity] that serves the people. The same journalists also established the Movement of Free Journalists, which is composed of media personnel that participated in the demonstrations at the squares or other [journalists] who chose to perform their duty without [being corrupted].

Today, the official channels, newspapers and news websites began to transmit a correct and genuine message once again, prompting Yemenis to tune in to Yemeni TV and Saba news agency to [watch], listen to or read the news. Everyone had felt that the official media was not addressing issues [pertinent] to the aspirations and future of all Yemenis. [The people] have asserted that today [they want the media’s message] to reject divisions, restore national unity, heal [the country’s] wounds and bear witness to a new Yemen.

Ironically, we are currently witnessing  a forceful attack on the successful information minister, who, since his first day in office, managed to prove his merit by reforming the Yemeni channels and make them impartial once again. What is currently taking place indicates that certain people are attempting to slander the reputation of the information minister. However, he is not paying them any attention and has remained focused on his righteous duty to the nation. These people have even made death threats against the minister via phone and text messages, illustrating the [precarious] psychological state of those who do not want stability in this country. [Their ability to remain above these issues portrays] the success of the media, which seeks to serve national issues, reveal the truth and promote transparency.

This vicious attack on the information minister is an attempt to return to the old days when media outlets were used to promote lies, falsify the truth and publish false reports. The media was used to commit double-murders against [the country’s young people] - first by inciting others to kill them, and then by denying their deaths and claiming that they were but random dead bodies at hospitals.  

Furthermore, the media outlets did not do justice to the people of Arhab and committed many professional errors against the Yemeni youth at the squares. In 2011 [the images and stories in the media] did not mirror what was actually taking place in the squares. [Instead the media used deceitful] techniques to tarnish the image of the youth in the squares in an attempt to shuffle the cards against the youth’s revolution. Some journalists sold the blood of martyrs and the wounded without regret in order to get paid. They gave up the morals and principles of their profession and denigrated its [presumed] impartiality. In turn, the Yemeni people, namely those free individuals who are part of the General People’s Congress, began to resent the low practices of the media.

Since a national consensus government was formed according to the GCC initiative, the information ministry has been headed by the opposition. [This opposition] was instrumental in reverting the media to its true role as a [guardian of the interests of] the people and not of particular groups. For the first time, millions are watching the Yemeni channels and the Saba news agency, which now show the worshipers on the Al-Sittin and Al-Sab'in streets [in Sana’a] without bias. This is ushering in a new era of freedom of expression. Official newspapers are now publishing pictures of the squares during the Friday prayers, and journalists are writing reports in Al-Jumhuriyyah newspaper and in other news websites that have been freed from [dubious and deceptive practices].

I wonder why some of those [who stood in the way of the will of the people] are now trying to obstruct the path of the new minister, who seeks to repair the discourse in the media and restore a sense of impartiality that will benefit all sides in Yemen. I urge them to refrain from impeding the official media’s path of stability and freedom, as its renewed professionalism will benefit Yemeni society as a whole.

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