Yemen: New study raises concerns over media independence and journalists’ rights

A report published by the Yemeni Journalist Syndicate (YJS) shows the grim state of the media since the start of the civil war in 2014.

Credit : YJS

The 'Media ownership and journalism independence in Yemen' report looked at 365 media outlets, including television channels, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and websites. The study reveals that the overwhelming majority of media in Yemen is owned directly or indirectly by parties involved in the eight-year long war in Yemen. It reflects the devastating  impact of the war on Yemen media, undermining journalistic independence and journalists’ social and professional rights.

Struggle with media independence

A common thread in the study that affects the majority of the media researched is its lack of independence. A vast majority of them are affiliated to  the parties involved in the conflict. This is particularly striking with television channel, with 23 out of 26 TV channels supporting the warring sides in Yemen, a crucial tool used by the parties to the conflict to communicate their viewpoints and ideas. This pattern also appears in radio outlets, with 42 out of 60 stations affiliated with the warring parties, and in newspapers, with 100 out of 132 affiliated  either to the Houthis or to the de facto government.

A growing trend: Media shutdowns

Out of 365 media outlets, only 200 outlets are still functioning. Out of the 26 TV channels, only 22 still operate. Fifty-four local radio stations still operate, while six have stopped airing. News websites face a similar trend and are also targeted by censorship by the Houthis. However, the media sector that is most severely impacted by this trend of shutdowns are newspapers and magazines. Of 132 newspapers and magazines published before the conflict, 13 are still being published. The radio sector has not been so affected by shutdowns and 36 new local radio stations have been established since the war started, with broader access and easy access, even in the most remote areas.

Journalists working in precarious conditions

The war and its impact on media outlets has also had a direct impact on journalists’ working conditions in all newsrooms. The report highlights that only 40 media outlets sign contracts with journalists, and the contracts do not guarantee all economic, financial, and insurance rights of journalists and do not provide journalists with safe working conditions’.

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