Media landscape changing in post-revolution Yemen
Many Yemeni newspapers are struggling to stay afloat, with an increasing number of nationwide newspapers such as Al-Ayam and Al-Nida, closing down. Although finances are often blamed for the decline of print media, various other factors have played a role in Yemen, including orders from the former regime that still permeate.
Throughout the politically tumultuous events of 2011, many newspapers were confiscated at military checkpoints because of news articles they published that were considered anti-regime. Al-Ola newspaper and Akhbar Al-Yoom were examples of papers that suffered huge financial loses due to this practice and were eventually forced to close.
Hilal Al-Jamra, the managing editor of Al-Nida newspaper, which was also forced to stop publishing in 2011, said the confiscations of newspapers triggered tremendous financial losses because people were afraid to buy them. He claimed that seven successive issues of Al-Nida suffered this fate, financially crippling the newspaper, and damaging the staff’s morale.
On top of this, due to a lack of security, the newspapers headquarters were burglarized several times, Al-Nida said.
Although the government set out a comprehensive compensation program for newspapers that were exposed to difficulties due to the revolution, many feel that the criterion for compensation was too complex. Al-Jamra says Al-Ayam newspaper deserves compensation in conjunction with its level of professionalism, but the government program does not address this.
The Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate (YJS) recently published a report that shows the Information Ministry of the former regime closed several newspapers due to their coverage of politically contentious events.
At that time, the Ministry of Information also stipulated that no articles were to be published about the South, imposing strict censorship on all papers. Following the announcement, the ministry decided to shutdown Al-Nida, Al-Share, Al-Masdr, Al-Watan, Al-Hali and Al-Dyar newspapers for not complying.
Marwan Damaj, the secretary general of the YJS, said another hardship for newspaper in 2011 was the breakdown of electricity. Many newspapers could not go to press, particularly independent institutions as they relied on power to run their printing presses.
Damaj is optimistic today. He says new newspapers continue to open up and replace the old ones.
However, many readers remain unhappy with the quality of journalism.
Mohammed Al-Asbahi, an avid reader, said print publications have not fulfilled the needs of readers.
“In Yemen the political press, the sport press and the economic press are not up to the standards of other countries,” he said.
Because modern technology has not reached many parts of Yemen, people rely on newspapers as the sole reference for news and job vacancies. The state also depends on the newspapers to publish new laws and decrees, which is why readers like Al-Asbahi are concerned about the future of the profession.