Protesters fear media blackout
SANA’A, Sept 5 — Fear has grown among Yemeni protesters that their revolution will soon be forgotten by the rest of the world due to lack of foreign media coverage. Last February, Yemen enjoyed a large share of media coverage around the world, focusing on the position elements of the protest movement. Global headlines told of tribesmen abandoning their weapons to protest peacefully and women’s involvement in Change Square. According to many protesters, that coverage has changed. “I was back in the US this summer, and many people I spoke to there, did not know that the peaceful protesters are still camped at the squares. They thought that the peaceful protests were over because the media had stopped giving them a voice,” wrote blogger and anti-government activist Atiaf al-Wazeer in her latest blog post. There are two different points of view among those protesters on the relationship between the revolution and mainstreams media. The first point of view is that more focused coverage of the revolution by the mainstream media would have ended the revolution faster, due to the role media plays in mobilizing the international community in support of revolution. “Al-Jazeera played a key role in Yemeni revolution as well as other revolution in the ‘Arab spring’ except it Bahrain. It [Al-Jazeera] was behind toppling of both former presidents in Tunisia and Egypt,” said Ali Al-Arhabi, a Yemeni protester. Fast moving changes and an increase of violence in Libya and Syria took western mainstream media’s priority and left Yemen out of the news coverage, disappointing many Yemeni protesters in spite of their emotional attachment to other ongoing revolution in the Arab World. “If the media focused more and dedicated their coverage to one revolution at time, the revolution will not take long, and would topple Arab dictatorships one after another,” said Al-Arhabi. The second point of view is that the Yemeni revolution has become too long and boring, forcing the media to lose interest as it has been going the same way for seven months so far. “The protesters should move forward and do some new actions to grape the media attention again towered the Yemeni revolution that has been taken so long,” said Ala’a al-Jarban, one of the protesters. Journalist and analyst Abdulhakeem Hilal agreed that western mainstream media focused on Yemen in the early days of the revolution but as the protesters haven’t added much to what was reported they lost interest in covering more. One reason he added is that after June 3, President Ali Abdullah Saleh assassination attempt, the western media decided on a new angle for Yemen’s stories. “That incident showed Saleh as a victim therefore after the incident there was not much news on Yemen in western media,” said Hilal. Yemen’s revolution is covered by Suhil TV which has a small viewership, most of them being the protesters themselves. Al-Jazeera Arabic sometimes dedicates more time to covering Yemen while other times not covering Yemen at all, depending on what else is happening in the region. Moreover, the role of western mainstream media especially in covering Yemen is not objective and may force Yemen to become a new Bahrain, not being covered fairly in news. The fact that there are more foreign journalist in Yemen than there are in Syria leads protesters to believe that those mainstream media are only implementing or serving foreign agendas that mainly serve the US interests in the Middle East. “The positive coverage toward the Yemeni revolution has changed, the militants groups and Al-Qaeda’s news are in the top of the news coverage on Yemen,” said Al-Jarban. “The news on Al-Qaeda is exaggerated as no journalists are reporting from the ground. When it comes to Al-Qaeda they rely on one side reports which are usually governmental,” he explained. One way to avoid the media blackouts towards Yemen is to create new revolutionary media outlets according to Al-Jarban. Indeed, some activists are working on launching a broadcast channel in September and started their radio broadcast six weeks ago. Al-Wazeer thinks that the solution will be by pushing independent media to disseminate information that’s missing from mainstream media. “If editors are refusing to publish deeper stories on Saudi’s role in Yemen, the humanitarian situation of IDPs, or the impact of drones on ordinary citizens for example, journalists should still write the story. Don’t wait until you find an editor who agrees, write the story and then find an independent source to publish it if needed,” wrote Al-Wazeer.