President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s attack on journalists in his last speech has accentuated the ongoing debate on Yemeni journalism and media.
By NY Staff
Many journalists criticized Hadi’s attack, claiming that the head of state should not come out so strongly against the media in a formal speech. At the same time, some journalists applauded the truth they heard in the president’s remarks, namely on the subject of journalists selling themselves and besmirching the honor of their profession.
Fares al-Saqqaf, Advisor to the president on Strategic Studies and Research, said that the president attacked journalists because of their irresponsible coverage of national issues, particularly in this sensitive stage of the nation’s development. At this time, suggested al-Saqqaf, all Yemenis must be of one mind to make Yemen’s transition succeed, “especially the media.”
In his speech to Al Jazeera Net, al-Saqqaf said that the president wanted to inspire in journalists senses of both responsibility and national pride. “He did not intend to punish or prosecute them.”
Al-Saqqaf further noted that Hadi didn’t aim his speech at all of the Yemeni media, but focused his accusations on those who spread bad information on the country’s security. He also made sure to thank those media persons who worked patriotically and sincerely at their jobs, though he did not mention any names.
Al-Saqqaf emphasized the importance of a presidential spokesperson holding weekly press conferences to discuss national developments and present key information to the media, ensuring that journalists have the correct information in order to better spread news and inform public opinion. The advisor called on journalists to take into account their conscience, responsibility, and sense of national pride when discussing any topic.
Khaled al-Hammadi, manager of the Freedom Institution for Rights, Freedoms, and Development said that President Hadi’s speech displayed the authoritarian response to journalists practiced by Yemen’s former regime.
Al-Hammadi emphasized that the president’ speech met widespread opposition from journalists, who feel that Hadi is against media freedom. Even if he were dissatisfied with certain media publications, al-Hammadi suggests that Hadi could have solved the problem through targeted channels, instead of through a public, formal speech by the head of state.
Journalist and political analyst Abdul Aalrguib al-Hudyani said that president’s speech was not addressed to journalists, but rather at ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been paying journalists to beautify his image and that of his regime.
Al-Hudyani clarified in a conversation with Al Jazeera Net that no one can deny that journalists and media publications have been idolizing Yemen’s former regime in exchange for monetary remuneration. Even today, there remain media outlets funded by Saleh in order to undermine the post-revolution government.
Al-Hudyani also said that the journalists most opposed to the contents of the president’s speech are exactly those that the president was referring to in his address. These are the journalists who sell their consciences for money. They attempt to justify Saleh’s mistakes even after the revolution and the fall of his regime. They also attempt to portray Hadi’s remarks as a threat to the Yemeni media in general.
Al-Hudyani recounted that journalists suffered from harassment, persecution, repression and prevention in the era of deposed President Saleh. At that time, the former regime even established a special court to prosecute journalists who criticized the regime while other journalists—those on the regime’s payroll—continued to sing Saleh’s praises.