Corruption triggers media repression [Archives:2008/1189/Reportage]

September 11 2008

By: Jane Novak
The level of media repression may be a determining factor in whether Yemen avoids the threat of state failure. The Yemeni government suffers from entrenched corruption in nearly every office, a legacy of traditional patron/client relationships. Demands for transparency threaten the substantial patrimonial networks associated with access to the government budget.

More than 20% of state funds go to the administrative expenses of the Presidency and Parliament. A quarter of the Yemeni budget is allocated to the military as a line item. Another third of the budget is spent on diesel subsidies. Beyond the misappropriation of state funds, members of the administration also spin off criminal enterprises using advantages gained from their official positions.

In Yemen's pervasively corrupt environment, investigative reporting is challenging the conditions that undermine efforts at wider economic and political reform. The Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption credits journalists with uncovering the vast majority of cases in its docket. The NGO, “Journalists Against Corruption”, recently documented financial malfeasance in every governmental ministry.

This investigative journalism is an agent of change on a social level as well. Published reporting on corruption has somewhat reduced the culture of fear. Corruption is now a topic more available for public discussion.

International efforts in working with the Yemeni government on the issue from the top down are augmented by the efforts of the journalists working from the bottom up. As the CPJ noted, “During the last three years