“Face To Face” With An Issue Not Chiefs [Archives:2000/32/Law & Diplomacy]

August 7 2000

Mr. Ali Salah Ahmad, is an energetic broadcaster of a pleasing appearance on Yemeni TV. He has put up 27 years of service starting at the age of 17. He could woo Yemeni audience. He is very much attached to his country. It is in need of successful media that do their role properly, he says.
Recently, his “Face to Face” won the golden prize in the Cairo Sixth Festival. Ironically, he has not been appreciated here. Face to Face is not an encounter with chiefs but rather with cases and issues, he says.
Ali Salah Ahmad is a multi-dimensional intellectual. He is a novelist, a poet, a scenarist, a program editor and a director.
Jalal Al-Sharaabi of the Yemen Times met with him and filed this interview:
Q: How was the beginning of Ali Salah until ”Face to Face”?
A: Let me before commencing express my thanks to the Yemen Times. I personally like such kind of newspapers. Thanks God that it has been able to go on after the dramatic death of its founder, my teacher, Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Saqqaf. We worked together when he was working as an English news broadcaster.
I began working here since 1974. I was then 17 when I began working as a typist in the news department at Yemen News Agency, Saba. Three months later I moved to the monitoring department. In a short period of time I worked as an editor, correspondents’ supervisor then deputy director of the News Department. In 1979 I accompanied an official delegation to another country where I sent an audio report from there. There was a need for somebody to be in charge of the news in TV. So I was made a director for the news department in TV.
During 1979-1985 I made a lot of works. In 1982 I completed the first dramatic work entitled ‘Thirty Nights From ‘One Thousand Nights And One’ which was more realistic. I went on writing and I was able to complete one work every year. Besides, I carried out my usual work with an average of 7 programs a week. After that I took charge of newscasters and I am still till now director of broadcasters department. My last drama work is ‘Al-I’isar’ (the hurricane) which I very much pride myself with. Many people criticized it for political reasons when it was broadcast in 1991. This work was presenting history in a different way. Others strongly criticized me when I compared it with ‘Al-Jawareh’ (a famous Syrian TV series). I am sure that if Al-I’isar came after 1994 they would say that it was a silly imitation of Al-Jawareh which was screened in 1994. I am a director as well. My last work has been ‘Face to Face’ which I do in association with Dr. Fadhl Al-Olufi.
Q: Have you thought that Face to Face would get the golden prize in the Cairo Festival? What was the reaction of the official authorities here?
A: Thank God that I have been successful in all my works inside as well as outside Yemen. Before the Cairo Festival I participated with in works in Syria two of which won the first and the second prizes. But due to absence of a proper coverage here many people haven’t known that. The two works were ‘Tawq Al-Intisar’ depicting the 70-day siege of Sana’a and ‘Rihlah ala jinah Al-Shawq’.
With ‘Face to Face’ I feel happy to see that audience in the Arab world appreciate such programs, especially at a time TV channels focus on trivialities. Face to Face was able to get ahead of many similar programs on the ART, MBC and Saudi channels. I feel happy and I forget all about labor when I feel that people respect what I present.
As far as the second part of your question is concerned, I did not receive more than ‘thank you’ from a few people. Others did not trouble themselves to say even congratulations.
Q: Do you think that Yemeni media reflect the society’s concerns? Have they attracted the people’s attention?
A: I wouldn’t be right if I say yes. But I hope that. There are attempts which, frankly speaking, need a proper study. The responsibility which is laid upon media is a great one. The country must present itself to the world in a way that matches its challenges and ambitions.
We have to be aware that media can be a helping part in everything. Any ministry, authority or organization can not achieve success without the support of people. People’s support can be won if such organizations present themselves properly through media.
Q: What about your participation in, and outside the country?
A: I have given the media all my attention. This does not mean that my works have been perfect because what I am supposed to do is more. This is applied to all media men. All who work in this field must devote themselves to it. During my work here I have done and presented all kinds of programs.
On the Arab level, I have participated in many programs with some channels like the Jordanian. I worked jointly with them for two years in making a joint program.
Q: Mr. Ali Salah, you are a broadcaster, a journalist, a novelist, and a poet. Which of these does appeal to you most?
A: I forgot to tell you that I have written 8 radio series. Each extends over thirty episodes.
In fact, I find myself in all what you have mentioned. Unfortunately, people do not appreciate local productions.
Q: How did the idea of ‘Face to Face’ come about?
What does it discuss?
A: The program is not a challenge or a confrontation between two officials or more as the title might suggest. It is, in fact, a confrontation with a case because all of us are part of it. We have to wake up and face our problems.
We have highlighted many issues such as housing and its effects on development, justice, health, blood revenges, education, unemployment, crimes etc. We try to know if there is an improvement in the social services from time to time
Q: Haven’t you thought of working for other Arab channels?
A: I have thought of that and there have been some offers from some Arab channels like MBC and Al-Jazirah. In 1994, there was a cooperation agreement with the MBC but due to the eruption of the civil war at the time I preferred to stay in Yemen to do my duty here. The other day I met with officials from Dubai and Abu Dhabi channels when I was in the Emirates and they asked me to work there but I felt very badly attached to my home.
Q: Do you find what you deserve here?
A: Yes. I have always got what I deserve. What is more important is that does the country benefit from what I do.
Q: What do Yemeni broadcasters lack in your opinion?
A: They lack being media men. The successful broadcaster should be a media man. A mere broadcaster will not do, because he/she will be no more than a voice producer which all people can do that. The broadcaster should have the intellectual spirit of the artist, physician, engineer, and all cultures. We have to introduce ourselves in a respectable way amongst the huge number of space channels.
Q: Where do you put the Yemeni Space Channel in comparison with other Arab channels?
A: A few have won the people’s respect. We are there and others have many faults. Arab channels do not compete with each other. Competition is very weak. Face to Face is admired by many people and a great number of audience phone from outside Yemen to participate in it.
Q: Any last word?
A: I have devoted myself for the media. What I have accomplished so far will be the basis for new works.