Developing media education in Yemen [Archives:2006/980/Local News]

September 11 2006

SANA'A, Sept. 10 ) The outcomes of Sana'a and Aden Universities' media faculty aren't up to professional standards. This is what most participants at yesterday's discussion at the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) agreed upon.

The discussion was triggered by a European team's visit to Yemen headed by Professor John Tulloch, head of the Lincoln School of Journalism in the UK. Nasr Taha Mustafa, YJS chairman and director of Saba News Agency welcomed the initiative, sponsored by the Joint Yemeni Media Development Program, and agreed that there's a problem with current media curricula and education methods at Sana'a and Aden universities.

“We know the university products aren't good enough from firsthand experience. For example, we recently advertised for a vacancy at the agency, for which we received 30 applications from media college graduates. Only five of those passed the verbal and written test, some barely exceeding the passing mark.”

Taha said it could be the curricula or maybe it's the professional practice because most Yemeni newspapers depend on politicized opinion and commentary articles where not much investigative reporting is done.

YJS deputy chairman Sa'eed Thabet agreed with this point, adding that Yemeni journalists launch into a journalism career without the least preparation, such as knowing the legal and professional aspects of their job. He added that Yemeni media also lacks sufficient professionals in newspaper design and layout.

“It's not just about reporting. We have a shortage in technical training in media management as well. Moreover, many of those working in the media haven't had adequate refreshment courses, so their knowledge becomes stale. For example, I've had only one real refreshment course since 1991,” Thabet noted.

Tulloch explained that his team's purpose in visiting Yemen and meeting with Yemeni journalists is to get a feel for what they can do to improve the curricula at Sana'a and Aden Universities. “This process might take four to five years because we need to have the right staff with the right resources and we also want Yemen to take ownership of this project,” he said.

During the discussion, several participating journalists talked about their personal backgrounds and how they became journalists. Many weren't media college graduates, but even those who were explained that they hadn't learned much there anyway.

Yemeni journalist Abdulalim Baggash is a graduate of Sana'a University's Media College. He commented on the situation at the college, saying, “There aren't sufficient resources. We don't even have any good books to use as references. At times, we thought we were just wasting our time. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said we really didn't respect our teachers because we felt they didn't know much to begin with.”

The European team, including Peter Karstel from Zwolle University in the Netherlands and Henrik Joergensen from the Danish School of Journalism, acknowledged these problems and mentioned that there's usually a debate between working journalists and university professors worldwide.

“Every culture and society has to have their own ideology and model for what journalism is for. There are many other issues that we may agree or disagree upon, but we all agree that a journalist should have an inquisitive mind and accurately report facts.” Said Tulloch.

The delegation currently is visiting Aden University's media faculty and will return to Sana'a before reporting to the Joint Yemeni Media Development Program about their visit and ways to move ahead with the project.