Yellow journalism in Yemen [Archives:2006/956/Viewpoint]

June 19 2006

As if it's not enough that the media scene in Yemen is in dire need of improvement in terms of professionalism and resources, Yemeni media now faces a new challenge – yellow journalism. There have been and still are certain debates and conflicts between Yemeni newspapers, especially those with conflicting views. But today, we have come to witness a new level of deterioration.

Yemeni newspaper Akhbar Al-Youm (Daily News) has sunk to a very degrading level of professionalism, continuing to target individuals and institutions just for spreading unconstructive false information, to say the least. The latest incident is a direct defamation of Sisters Arab Forum director Amel Al-Basha regarding a development project established between Women Journalists without Chains (formerly Women Journalists without Constraints) and Canada's Bridges organization, directed by Donna Kennedy, to create communication channels between Yemeni and Canadian girls. The newspaper accused the program of assisting outside sources (i.e. Western) to infiltrate and 'occupy' Yemeni minds with dangerous, foreign and non-Islamic thoughts and views. They even denounce the Islah party for not standing against it.

We have enough problems in Yemen, so we really don't need an additional setback. I don't understand how the Ministry of Information can turn a blind eye toward such humiliation. This isn't the first incident of its kind, as we all remember last year's defamation of Rahma Hujaira in Al-Bilad newspaper, wherein it attributed lies to her in urging Yemeni women to walk around 'naked' without hijab (covering).

Regardless of differences and viewpoints, there's a level of decency that shouldn't be crossed generally, but especially in the media. Having such yellow newspapers stabbing the backs of activists provides an additional obstacle to Yemen's development. It's true that such newspapers gradually lose their credibility, but this happens at the expense of the reputation and time of the targeted individuals and institutions. And in a conservative society like Yemen, such loss sometimes is too grave and cannot be retained.

Many initiatives in Yemen aim to support media and freedoms, but thus far, they're continuously hindered mainly by bureaucratic regulations and systems, resistance to change, lack of resources and the spread of these problems. Today, with this new trend of yellow journalism, our efforts also are threatened by negative publicity about and negative campaigning against some development efforts. Unfortunately, many among Yemen's population don't have the resources or access to be able to discern false information from truth, so such slander eventually does have an effect.

My hope is that legitimate authorities like the Ministry of Information and the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate will take an effective leading role against this new battle line. Else, we as individual media institutions will have our say, loud and clear.