Official media and democratic course [Archives:2008/1214/Opinion]

December 8 2008

Mohammed Abdulwahab Al-Yousifi
Official media in the developing countries represent one of the pillars for survival of totalitarian regimes. Therefore, the job of official media in these countries, including Yemen, is to ensure survival of totalitarian and oppressive regimes. The official media is viewed as a means to bring people together, educate them and enlighten their minds.

At this point, one can observe weaknesses and limitations associated with performance of the official media in the third world countries including Yemen. One of these weaknesses is that official media outlets are owned by states, and this has its negative impact on performance of these outlets, as well as imposes additional restrictions on them. This makes out of the official media outlets an administrative system, affiliated with one of the cabinet's ministries.

In the third world states, official media outlets are usually administered by personnel, who are government servants and not professional journalists.

Here, it becomes easy for one to explore the quality of a message being conveyed by media outlets with controlled performance and powers.

Another weakness is represented by the low-standard laws that regulate performance of the official media and limiting their articles to ensuring longer survival of a totalitarian regime.

There are no effective laws to protect the real message and ensure independence of media outlets, and this is the primary reason why we find individuals operating in an atmosphere lacking independence and freedom, thereby leaving a negative impact on their performance.

Weakness three is that of the media outlets being solely owned by the state. The private sector is not allowed to own media outlets, particularly the visual and auditory ones. In addition, more restrictions are imposed even on ownership of newspapers in Yemen. As many as 60 applications submitted to the Information Ministry to obtain licenses for establishing private newspapers have not been considered.

As a result, some applicants resorted to file lawsuits against the Information Ministry, two of which are being discussed in courts. Lack of competition and multiplicity makes the media message lose its vitality, as well as infects with the media community with recession and fragility.

With regard to role of the official media in enhancing partisan and political pluralism, and the freedom of expression, plus supporting the democratic transformations in Yemen, this matter can not be separated from the other issues indicated above. As far as I am concerned, this issue plays an integral role in weakening role and performance of the official media.

Anyone observing performance of Yemen's official media will be convinced that this performance is the main reason why the country's emerging democratic experience is weak. Performance of the official media is responsible for emptying out content of the country's emerging democracy and shaking Yemeni citizens' trust in the democratic process and its results. A potential risk is being posed to the pioneering democratic project in favor of other smaller projects threatening the entire country.

The official media outlets with budgets coming from public funds are exploited in favor of the ruling party and changed into a partisan instrument for this party. As a result, we see no distinction between what is published by state-run and ruling party-affiliated media outlets.