Yemen’s media needs donors [Archives:2004/717/Viewpoint]

March 4 2004

Slowly but steadily, the Yemeni media, particularly the independent newspapers, are reaching out to the donor community in an effort to say that the media is here. It is promising to see that the Yemeni press has finally started to realize that there are international organizations and donor countries welling to support the media in Yemen to become more professional, viable, and independent in its reporting.
It is unfortunate that for many years, donors countries and international organizations and institutions that are known to support democracy and freedoms in the developing world, have neglected the media sector in Yemen and seen it as the last priority, if not sometimes ignoring it totally, while allocating all their funds and efforts to other sectors.
It is about time that the international community realizes that the media in Yemen is under tremendous pressure both politically, socially, and economically. It is a rule of thumb that independent reporting is a pillar of democracy and should be taken as one of the major fields to support and promote. But how can that be if donors are turning a deaf ear to their needs and requirements.
Independent newspapers today suffer from many problems, including lack of skills to run the management of the paper, lack of funds and infrastructure to have things running smoothly, lack of qualified cadres to report professionally and accurately, and lack of interest by the government and private sector in supporting it.
Hence, what remains to be the only hope for many newspapers to continue reporting honestly and credibly lies within the hands of institutions that support freedom of speech and expression and countries that value the importance of the media in the cycle of economic development.
Soon, a number of independent newspapers will come forward with a request and agenda to the world asking for assistance to raise their capacities and enhance their cadres. They will present ideas and proposals to bring an end to their suffering and rise on their feet again.
In the past, such donors would justify their negative stance towards the media with simple reasons such as lack of coordination with the Yemeni press, lack of proposals and ideas presented by the media. In some ways this is true. I remember when I used to present proposals on behalf of Yemen Times to such organizations they would compete with each other to finance them. This is a major issue that soon could be resolved.
But once this issue is resolved and once the Yemeni media expresses its interest to work more closely with donors to develop this sector adequately, there would be no excuse not to go ahead in developing this field.
Will the international community and governments that always call for the support of democracy and freedom of speech respond positively when the moment of truth comes?
I know they will, and I believe the coming months will prove it.