Findings of a new study on journalism trends in Yemen [Archives:2008/1186/Local News]

September 1 2008

SANA'A, Aug. 27 – A study on journalism trends in print media by Abdulmalik Al-Danani, head of Sana'a University's journalism college, reveals that journalists believe Yemeni media has a long way to go before being considered a true public opinion power.

The study, which was designed as a qualitative survey sampling the opinions of 30 Yemeni journalists from various affiliations, covered seven areas: popular newspapers, the power of print media, the role of media, lack of professionalism, the media's message, censorship and freedom of expression.

Of those surveyed, 38 percent said they preferred reading political party newspapers, while 19 percent preferred independent newspapers. Around 33 percent preferred official newspapers, particularly Al-Thawrah, and 10 percent couldn't make up their minds.

Regarding the power of print media, 60 percent of the sample believed that political party newspapers create public opinion, while 67 percent said official newspapers don't. Less than 30 percent thought independent newspapers are able to create public opinion and pressure decision makers.

A majority of the journalists agreed that limits to freedom of expression, particularly regarding media law, have disabled the print media and prevented it from playing its role in society. Some complained about bureaucracy at their own newspapers and control by their editors-in-chief.

Some of the journalists sampled also indicated that there isn't much respect for print journalism due to lack of professionalism and unethical behavior by some journalists.

Sixty percent agreed that low wages and poor financial conditions cause journalists to neglect their duties and seek other means of income.

All of the journalists surveyed had an opinion about print media coverage of political, social, economic and development issues. Many noted that newspapers – even independent ones – are extremely politicized, while only 14 percent said newspapers help Yemen's development and awareness.

Many journalists desired better conditions regarding freedom of expression, complaining of tight control by editors and authorities. However, some did admit that a few journalists and “yellow journalism” newspapers abuse freedom of expression to print unethical articles.

Some expressed concerns about harassments and violations against journalists, while others denied any such abuse, with 17 percent claiming that there's no such thing as journalists being assaulted in Yemen because it is a democratic country.

In conclusion, the study recommended amending the Media Law and eliminating those articles that imprison journalists for doing their job. It also advised endorsing and strengthening the role of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate and committing journalists to a code of ethics.

Finally, it urged Yemen's Information Ministry to support journalists and their causes and help generate better economic conditions and higher pay.