As the Editor-In-Chief of this newspaper, please allow me to formally update you very briefly on the first five years of National Yemen. National Yemen was a dream of mine. I had always wanted to create a paper committed to the improvement of Yemen.
To do this, National Yemen continues to provide independent and unbiased journalism—even in an increasingly politically charged and polarized region. It also provides close and critical coverage to provide understanding in this mercurial and pivotal period of Yemeni history by focusing not only on the facts as they are, but also the important opinions that shape, influence and ultimately reflect what Yemen is today.
National Yemen, by no coincidence, was founded on Yemen’s “National Day.” This important holiday celebrates the 25th anniversary (Silver Anniversary) of Yemen’s unification in 1990.
Now, at the age of five, National Yemen is going through a difficult time to maintain its regular print, pay its staff, and maintain its office. The newly erupted crises in Yemen led by the Saudi coalition on one side and Houthi militants backed by the former president on the other side have contributed to the death of humans, and they have destroyed hope within Yemen to fulfil their short and long term visions and missions.
As memories drive me back to the first days of how I turned National Yemen newspaper from an idea into reality, I feel that I am going again to square one after five years of tireless work to raise this project.
Only eight months were the difference between the first print of the newspaper and the start of Yemen’s youth spring revolution on Feb 11th, 2011. The Peaceful revolution successfully ended rule of the 33-year president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh. Despite of the one-year chaotic and fragile situation at that time, the newspaper managed to continue its weekly print until today.
As an independent newspaper, there was a big challenge to survive in a time of buying media loyalties. National Yemen always struggled to remain independent despite pressure from different political parties and groups.
The problems National Yemen has faced in its five years are too numerous to list here, but as a self-financed English newspaper, the financial liquidity, logistics, shortages of staff, lack of advertising, chaos, power cuts and many other challenges were major daily problems I was forced to face and find solutions for.
Being the publisher and the Editor-in-Chief with zero financial sources, honestly speaking I was doing the job of firefighter rather than editor. There was no option at all after the 2011 revolution and 2012 was a bad year for advertising, and i joined the National Dialogue team in 2013 for the purpose to maintain the newspaper’s printing and pay salaries until January 2014. In between these years there were plenty of stories to talk about, the worst was in late December 2011 when a gunman aimed to end my life at the top building of the old office. Luckily I escaped death but I got my newspaper equipment stolen the day after.
A second negative story is happening today, but logically it began in September 2014 when the Houthis stormed Sana’a in an excuse of fighting corruption, improving people’s lives, and fixing oil prices. These three goals have turned into today’s shelling and killing.
With this, National Yemen has reserved its place at the top of leading newspapers in Yemen and it has contributed to the growth of English journalism, taking into consideration the slogan “The facts as they are”.
Within five years of time, National Yemen’s distribution list has covered all governorates of Yemen using a third party distributor. The newspaper has opened up tens of opportunities for youth to work and volunteer, some of them worked for the newspaper and others moved into other organizations. Some of those who work for the newspaper have even started similar businesses and I feel so proud of every one who has joined National Yemen.
Despite of the negative images of today and the absolute collapse of the country, National Yemen still has something good to say. Frankly speaking, the newspaper couldn’t survive these five years without the faithful support of it’s advertisers and its western and local staff who tirelessly promoted the newspaper.
I know that sometimes people plan something and God plans something else for them. With this, I just would like to mention that I was preparing to celebrate our fifth anniversary at a high level and I was planning to invite those who helped me grow the newspaper to a gathering ceremony, but since things went different I have a list of people to thank for their faithful help and support.
Once again, the success of this paper has been realized by the tremendous teamwork of more than 100 local staff and correspondents that have worked for the paper since its inception. National Yemen has also received critical support from collaboration with expats such as William Carter, who managed to successfully create National Yemen’s first hardcover print, titled Precious Resources, documenting the oil, gas and mineral resources of Yemen. The paper also benefited from the help of Dan Driscoll, who helped the newspaper to maintain a high quality through 2011. Dan worked from a long distance for almost a year during the Yemeni Youth Revolution and he has never been paid. The paper is also has deep appreciation for the support of Noah Browning, who now works for Reuters and Shoshana Kedem who developed the marketing strategy for the newspaper.
I will neither forget the good support I received from the late photojournalist Luke Somers in 2012 who was killed by a failed rescue attempt from the hand of al-Qaeda in Shabwa on 14 December, 2014. Another Yemeni American Ahlam Mohsein had a good hand too in 2013. Stanley Seiden extended his excellent support as he joined the newspaper as well as Bilal Ahmed. Many more names deserved to be mentioned here and one of them is Kevin Davis, who still edits the newspaper from a long distance. Davis has tried all the best to help National Yemen escape its current critical financial crisis.
The old Yemeni team and the current ones who are listed in the newspaper all reflect high spirit and professionalism. With such a team of committed individuals, the future of National Yemen is linked to the future of fragile Yemen.
However, much like Yemen itself, National Yemen will also face numerous challenges for many more years to come. Regardless of the size or amount of these challenges, we will always be dedicated to providing journalistic freedom and independence whenever possible.
I am looking forward to celebrating the end of war in Yemen to celebrate National Yemen.