Report discloses media violations in pre-election days [Archives:2006/983/Front Page]

September 21 2006

SANA'A, Sept. 19 ) The Human Rights Information & Training Center (HRITC) announced its report assessing media coverage of campaigns preceding the Sept. 20 presidential and local council elections.

The center's study observed the performance of five state-run newspapers: Al-Thawra, Al-Jumhuriyya and October 14 daily newspapers and September 26 and Al-Wahdah weekly. It also assessed the role of eight private newspapers: Al-Wasat, Al-Nida, Akhbar Al-Yawm, Al-Ayyam, Al-Shomou, Al-Nas, Al-Balagh and Al-Ray Al-A'am.

Further, HRITC assessed the role played by Yemeni satellite television and 22 May Channel.

Regarding radio media such as Sana'a and Aden radio broadcasting, the research team utilized a special methodology developed by international organizations concerned with media monitoring, such as the International Organization for Supporting Media in Denmark, the European Media Institute and the Media Observation Organization.

The HRITC study was conducted between Aug. 13 and Sept. 19, during which the research team benefited from numerous experiences applied from Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South America and some African countries. The team further profited from the experience of some Arab nations, including Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon.

The study monitored and analyzed both time and space given to candidates by media during the election campaign period. Such analysis is called quantitative. The project involved qualitative analysis of media's role. The second type of analysis checked whether media applied balanced policies and fair criteria in their coverage. It also verified whether media committed violations, imposed restrictions upon some candidates or played a partial role.

The study's findings revealed that neither Yemeni television channel designated a dialogue program to discuss candidates' electoral platforms and rallies.

The report criticized filming of the General People's Congress candidate's rallies in Taiz and Ibb via helicopter, while other candidates were deprived of such filming. It also found that both Sana'a and Aden television channels were partial to the ruling party candidate when timing the broadcast of campaign rallies.

The study further indicated that Yemeni satellite channels played a campaign song entitled, “We have no one but Ali,” for President Ali Abdullah Saleh prior to airing footage of his rallies in Ibb, Taiz, Lahj and other governorates.

Regarding the performance of state-run newspapers during the campaign period, the report revealed limitations, such as lack of independence and violating election laws.

The study further criticized state-run Al-Thawra, Al-Jumhuriyya and October 14 daily newspapers for publishing identical reports on presidential contenders' rallies, noting that the papers only quoted a source – Yemen's Saba News Agency – and accused them of republishing President Saleh's interview with Al-Jazeera satellite channel.

With respect to the performance of private newspapers, the study said papers like Akhbar Al-Yawm and Al-Shomou played the role of staunch GPC ally and slammed the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) candidate.

According to the report, Al-Nida weekly was the only newspaper that played an independent and neutral role during the presidential candidates' campaigning and labeled other private newspapers as relatively neutral and impartial to the ruling party candidate.

The report disclosed that some private newspapers, such as Al-Ray Al-A'am and Al-Balagh, supported the GPC presidential candidate, while finding that political party newspapers like Al-Nas weekly favored JMP presidential candidate Faisal Bin Shamlan.