Saturday, August 27, 2011

Some thoughts on the media blackout

There is an ongoing discussion on why Western mainstream media is not writing or broadcasting enough material about the Yemeni revolution.

I was back in the US this summer, and many people I spoke to there, did not know that the peaceful protesters are still camped at the squares. They thought that the peaceful protests were over because the media had stopped giving them a voice.

In this post I will list some of the theories that people have regarding the media blackout. I don't necessarily agree with all these points, but I would like to list them all here in order to have a discussion about it.

Theories on media blackout:

1) People just don't care about "Yemen", after all they just recently found out this country exists. Same people knew about"crazy" Qadhafi for years, and Syria was also known especially for it's link to "scary" Iran. But,'s still brand new for media. (of course Yemen is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world)

2) Journalists find it hard to understand Yemen due to its complicated history and various players on the ground. To them, the pro-democracy movement seems scattered and it is therefore very difficult to know who to talk to. Who is the spokesperson? Who can speak on behalf of the revolution? Etc

3) More analysis pieces need to be written to help everyone including the journalists with understanding Yemen, and yet editors are not necessarily eager to publish these analysis pieces. They are more interested in how many people died, where, and when. No depth, just fast facts. Why? Because everyone is obsessed with sending the story first, not enough people care about the quality of the story.

4) There are few western journalists in Yemen. However, there are many English speaking journalists in Yemen covering stories in all governorates. In addition, there are a lot more Western journalists in Yemen than there are in Syria, yet information from Syria is covered on a daily basis and not from Yemen. Why is that?

6) Mainstream western media is serving a specific agenda, that does not include promoting real change in Yemen. Without realizing it, western journalists repeat, like parrots, the standard government lines void of any analysis. How many times have you read the same exact information in different articles on the same day?!

7) We often hear about AQAP as the largest threat to the world, without proper investigation or analysis. Have we heard much about former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair's analysis that the drone attacks are “not strategically effective. If the drones stopped flying tomorrow, Blair told the audience at the Aspen Security Forum, “it’s not going to lower the threat to the U.S.” This is not the story the west wants its audience to hear.

Of course each one of these points needs further explanation, and I will try to elaborate on that soon in another post. No matter what the reasons are, the reality is, information on Yemen is scarce. Of course other countries in the region, like Bahrain, are suffering from the same blackout.

More importantly than why, is how can we circumvent this blackout and push Yemen and other countries in the media? We need to really push independent media to disseminate information that's missing from mainstream media.

We can't constantly blame journalists for all of this, they are trying hard to do their job, but it's our job as citizens to push them to always do their best. So with that, my advise to the journalists in Yemen is the following: if editors are refusing to publish deeper stories on Saudi's role in Yemen, the humanitarian situation of the IDPs, or the impact of drones on ordinary citizens for example, journalists should still write the story. Don't wait until you find an editor who agrees, write the story and then find an independent source to publish it if needed.

Finally, if your goal is to serve a community through writing about the truth, it won't matter if your name appears on the best selling newspaper or an independent online one.


shamsan said...

Gr8 Keep posting up such wounderful news.

shamsan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liss said...

Well said! Now you have me wondering if there is a list somewhere of independent media.. If not I shall try to start one

michela said...

i'm an italian girl and i started interesting in yemen revolution 'cause my best friend was there. here is hard to find informations about what is happening there, every newspaper is writing just about libya and siria.
where can i find the history about what is happening there and why? i want to release it

معـا نحـو الـغــــد said...

To Michela

Perhaps this article from Le Monde diplomatique can give you insight of what has been going on in Yemen:

معـا نحـو الـغــــد said...

To Liss:
I just discovered you personal webpage ( one of the many sites BLOCKED from Yemen.
Wish you good luck

Damian said...

Another interesting and considered post. Thanks!

Liss said...

Ack! thanks, معـا نحـو الـغــــد
Heard Yemen blocked Tumblr when ionacraig wrote about it.
I cross-post on Blogger, WordPress, Posterous hoping one or other site might be available.
My top tip if a link is blocked:
Paste the link into an online HTML-to-PDF converter like
(there are a few online, best try some and bookmark)

Anonymous said...

Dear womanfromyemen! Maybe Western media coverage of the Yemeni Revolution stopped cause they do not get the clue about what is really going on in Yemen now and in opposition to Lybia, nothing goes onward. Although the Fukushima Problem in Japan is far from being solved and will be a threat for the whole world during many years, there is no news about the situation in German media. Additionally Europe and also the US are busy with their own probs like the upcoming economic and stock market crisis. It might be difficult if not impossible for Western journalists to understand AND analyse what is REALLY going on in Yemen. Do you expect them to understand the Yemeni snake games?I lived in Yemen and with my Yemeni family, friends and neighbours for nearly 20 years and at least I only can say, that I understand now, that I really do not understand anything. Some of my Yemeni friends said, that was much more than they do understand of their home country. GOOD LUCK for the YEMENI YOUTH REVOLUTION. I wish I can see your beautiful faces as Future Yemeni Leaders. I am so sick of these gready, ugly, selfish old guys, that abuse the country for their own purposes. Go ahead. I am homesick.LOve ya Yemen.