|Picture by Malin Crona|
Reporters without boarders' office in Sweden has awarded the imprisoned Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi the World Press Freedom award yesterday in Stockholm. I took part in a panel discussion part of the award ceremony along with a number of Swedish journalists. I'm posting here a text I prepared for the session that could shed light on parts of the press freedom condition in Yemen that's affected by the war's cruelty.
World Press Freedom Day: Yemenis’ Words & Lives Under Fire
May 3, 2015 – There is so much going on in Yemen as I speak, and talking about the right to free press might be considered totally irrelevant. Yemen is at war and Yemenis are struggling to have the right to peace and life. The war has been waged almost six weeks ago after a coalition of 10 Arab countries headed by Saudi Arabia started operating a campaign of airstrikes against military targets in Yemen and simultaneously there is a fierce internal armed fights between several domestic factions. As the war is taking place, a great deal of citizens’ rights are violated and no doubt the right to free information and freedom of expression are violated as well. Actually, it’s hard to know where to start in analyzing the current condition of press freedom in the country in the light of the ongoing war. Nonetheless, here is my attempt.
2014, in particular has been a chaotic and harsh year for free press in Yemen and it continues to be so as the ongoing multi-facets conflicts are taking place in the country. Yemeni journalists are facing mounting dangers in practicing their job and facing grave threats to their own lives in the light of the ongoing violence and the authoritarian style of leadership shown by the new ruling power now at the hands of the Houthi’ militia group, who came to power, or still fighting to have full power, since their coup against president Hadi and his government carried in september last year. Generally speaking, before the coup, press in Yemen could be described as partisan press: journalism outlets usually worked along with political party lines. Today, the press is heavily used as a tool for propaganda and instigation of animosity and hatred). Having said that, Clearly, the war’s implications would also have a grave impact on how the press’ future would look like.
In the wider view over the current condition for media in Yemen: it is important to note that Following Yemen’s Uprising in 2011, there was a relatively boom in the field of media in the country: Despite widespread illiteracy, by last year, Yemen had around 90 newspapers published weekly or more often and the state's monopoly on broadcasting had been broken; there were several privately-owned Yemeni TV channels (some of them based outside the country) plus a number of radio stations. As elsewhere, there had also been a rapid increase in citizen journalism, including often well-made videos posted on YouTube(1). And investigative journalists –represented as watchdogs of democracy– they were doing courageous reporting where they were becoming as whistleblowers of corruption cases linked to powerful governmental institutions and exposing powerful governmental and non-governmental figures.