When it was said for the first time: “This is the English newscast from Arab Republic of Yemen TV” [Archives:2003/645/Opinion]

June 26 2003

Mahboob Ali
Chairman of Yemeni Journalists Syndicate

The time was September 1975 when the first TV broadcasting in Sana'a took place in celebration of the 13th anniversary of the Yemeni Revolution in the North, a decade following that of the south 1974.
At that time, there was no TV and radio establishment as such like the journalist establishment, yet a combined Yemeni- Emirate administration was in charge and the project was funded by the UAE and run by Arab expertise.
Four months since the first broadcast and precisely in January 1976 Yahya Al-Arashi replaced Ahmed Dhmish as minister of Information, at that time called ministry of culture and information. A young man not older than 25 years, who was working in the public relations section at the ministry, attracted the new minister's attention. He had graduated recently from Sana'a University and was working as a translator in the public relations section headed by Abdulla Amir. And on one fine morning, early in 1976 this man was summoned by the minister and was made in charge of external relations and in the reception committee of international VIPs. This decision was due to the eagerness and enthusiasm as well as efficiency in translation, which this young man displayed.
At that time, the TV broadcasting was an exciting phenomenon and more demand was taking place although the broadcasting was merely for a few hours. However, most of the foreign delegation's comments especially that of the USA and India focused on the point that the Yemeni TV lacked an English News programme. A shortcoming that was not overcome by any other media organisation be it newspapers or the Saba News Agency or the radio.
And just once the meeting between the Indian Ambassador and Yahya Al-Arashi ended, and while the young external relations officer was comforting the Ambassador to his car, the officer was called back in a hurry to the minister's office again.
“Take this file and translate all the news in it to English” he was told. One hour later when the task was done he was told to broadcast the news himself on TV!
Never being the focal point and never was interested in the lime light now he was to face the camera lights and for the first time look into the camera thinking of all those people watching on the other end he had to broadcast live the English news bulletin for the very first time.
Carrying the file under his arm, and the tension and excitement in his head he went home to get ready for the critical moment. His life ambitions, his dreams, his plans and his family all went through his head. He was dreaming of a scholarship that would allow him to study further in the United States, he had a family which he needed to support and he could not afford to study abroad on his own expense. If only this could be the chance to do it, if only this could be the open door through which he would be able to fulfill his dream without worrying about his family. And then he decided to go ahead with it, he'd face the lights and face the world. At 7: 30 hours sharp that evening, smiling at the camera, speaking the word never spoken before: “Good evening, this is the English news from the Arab Republic of Yemen TV”
Being the first English broadcaster, it was possible for him to achieve fame and greater success had he wanted to. But he didn't and he was loyal to his dream. And just when the opportunity came knocking on the door he snatched it and achieved a full-bright scholarship for Masters and PhD as well in economy, returning at a later stage to work in Jordan in the Arab Institute for Monetary Studies.
And the dreams followed one after the other, and his children grew and were educated abroad and finally he came back home and established the largest dream of his life, The Yemen Times.
In 1991, 28th of February was the fist issue of the first English newspaper in Republic of Yemen, just like he was the first English broadcaster in Arab republic of Yemen, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf (mercy be upon his soul) had always been the first one who dared to dream.