The EU can help Yemen’s media [Archives:2003/696/Viewpoint]

December 22 2003

Two consultants of the European Commission were present in Sana'a last week for discussions on EU assistance to the civil society in Yemen. In an informal session held by our sister newspaper Yemen Observer to highlight the possible assistance of the EU to Yemen, a fruitful discussion took place between editors and the two consultants with the aim of answering the questions “Can the EU assist Yemen's media? How?”
The answer was a definite “YES”. It is possible and will always be possible to help the media in Yemen in many ways. The EU consultants were kind enough to note down a lot of comments presented by the attendants, who were mainly representatives of nongovernmental newspapers.
I take this opportunity to write this column in dedication to this initiative, and thank the EU for their clear intentions to involve the media in their aid program because we are truly in need for their support.
We explained in the meeting that the media in Yemen is categorized into printed press, which includes partisan, private, and governmental newspapers, along with the electronic media represented by the governmental TV and radio stations. Taking into consideration the fact that the governmental newspapers and media organizations enjoy a lot of privileges for having their own budgets from the government along with several aid packages from the international community, and bearing in mind that the partisan newspapers are usually propaganda newspapers for political parties that finance and support them for their own interests, we find that the private media is left in the blue.
Professionally run private media enterprises in Yemen tend to take a balanced line, and prefer to report in an honest, free and independent manner away from political struggle and bias in favour of any side. This is why they do not receive substantial aid from either the government or the active political parties. O the other hand, they have not been offered any aid from any international donors including the EU. They had to rely on advertisement revenues and sales income to get them running. And in such a country of extremely low GNP and purchase power, surviving with such resources is extremely challenging, but possible.
Nevertheless, the free press in Yemen has gone a long way, and is now asking for help from the EU.
We proposed that the EU aid concentrate on capacity building of newspapers as entities. This is in my opinion the first step that should be taken to enhance the free media in Yemen. Building a media institution in a proper manner will open the way to the development of efficient and professional sales, marketing, administration, and journalist staffers. This is because a newspaper is composed of all of those elements, and promoting a media institution involves helping all of them.
The point I aimed at delivering in the meeting is that even though training sessions for journalists are helpful, developing the media in Yemen is much more than that. It also involves analyzing needs of newspapers and helping them establish stronger infrastructure and maintain professional standards even in the administrative tasks least relevant to journalism, because for a journalist to work efficiently, he/she needs to get a decent salary, and for that to happen the hiring institution should be fit financially, and that can only be achieved if management is effective and work is professionally carried out.
We left the meeting with ambitions and hopes in that the EU would indeed look into this matter seriously.
“We have hope in that you will deliver the right message to Brussels” I told the consultants, and I believe they will certainly do.