How Yemeni Civil War is portrayed in the Mainstream Media till date?

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by Khaled Hamoud Alshareef

Audio Article

President Hadi called for military support, after he was ousted by the Houthi movement, and fled to Saudi Arabia…

This one is a little different, it hits close to home in many different ways, the Yemeni Civil War is a unique phenomenon in modern warfare, the majority of people don’t even know what’s really going on, and who’s fighting who.

The Combatants

  • Iranian backed Supreme Political Council (Houthis).
  • Internationally Recognized Government (Hadi-led government).
  • South Yemen Nationalists Southern Transitional Council.
  • The (allegedly Turkish and Qatari backed) Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Yemen Province (ISIL-YP).
  • The (allegedly Iranian and Qatari backed) Ansar al-Sharia and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The so-called Supreme political council of Yemen, is a mish-mash of bad guys and misfits. Iran supplies the Houthis with arms, drones and ballistic missiles, and Hezbollah delivers these arms through shell corporations, and Hezbollah operators man the missiles.

A UN report said, North Korea cooperating militarily with Syria and has been trying to sell weapons to Yemen’s Houthis.

On the other hand Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia terrorist groups, that have been in war with Saudi Arabia since the mid 90s with support from Iran and Qatar also known as Al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula are portrayed, as Saudi and Emarati allies by mainstream media.

The Cabinet of Yemen, refers to the governing body of the internationally recognized Yemen government led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi who replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh on February 25, 2012 as the new President. He then selected new cabinet members of the Yemeni Government.

The Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, is an intervention launched by Saudi Arabia on 26th March 2015, leading a coalition of nine countries from West Asia and North Africa, in response to calls from the legitimate president of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

President Hadi called for military support, after he was ousted by the Houthi movement, and fled to Saudi Arabia.

The narrative of the coverage

Civil wars have plagued the nation for years. In 2011, when the so called Arab Spring shook the Arabian world, Yemenis protested for “democracy”. That’s what the main stream media told you, right? Well, the truth is a bit more complicated.

The “protestors” successfully toppled the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled the country for 33 years. He was forced to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Under Hadi, who ran uncontested in 2012, reforms were slow and corruption and food insecurity were not going away as fast as expected, The Houthi rebels, used that to gain greater political representation. When they failed to do so politically they resorted to violence.

In 2014, they aligned with Saleh and took control of the capital city of Sanaa. Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia in early 2015. A fight for power between tribal and government factions within Yemen escalated in March of that year and became threatening to the security of the region.

The continued failures to resolve the conflict peacefully forced the hand of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, that ended up intervening with air strikes to fight the military campaign of Iran-Backed Houthis that swallowed most of the country.

Porcelain mask is cracked: The Yemen media war, and the massive propaganda machine

Some in the main stream media will tell you, that the murder of the late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi sparked the massive coverage campaign that covered the war in Yemen. I would be more honest, and say that it was a campaign aimed at the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Three-years before the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, mourners were attending the funeral of journalist Abdul Kareem al-Khaiwani in Sanaa, March 24, 2015. Assassins on a motorbike shot dead Khaiwani in broad day light.

The war in Yemen in general has negatively impacted media at many levels. In 2016, in a televised speech, the leader of Houthi rebels, Abdelmalek al-Houthi, warned, “The media workers are more dangerous to our country than the nationalist and warring mercenaries”.

Let’s be honest, the hostility of militant groups toward the media is not limited to the Houthis. Yes it maybe as extreme as the Iranian backed militias but it can’t be ignored, adding to the problem is the targeting of journalists by Al-Qaida and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant – Yemen Province (ISIL-YP).

This hostility hinders the media’s ability to deliver news and stories about Yemen’s civil war, leaving Yemeni and international news audiences ignorant, dependent on politically motivated media groups who are active in the conflict areas, most of which fall prey to corruption of war.

Yemen’s media suffered a decline and retreated as it comes under increased pressure during the ongoing conflict. It also got plagued with hiring, based on ideology affiliated with the Houthis, moreover, nepotism of militia members was high as they started handing over press jobs to their relatives.

Controlling the local and international narrative is crucial for the Houthis. When Houthi forces took over Sanaa in 2014, they shelled the Yemen state TV station, and soon after they replaced media professionals with Houthi-affiliated media groups.

While this was happening in Houthi-controlled areas, newspapers and broadcasts in the north and south were suspended, such as the formerly state-owned Al-Thawra and 14October newspapers.

Instead, the Houthis captured Al-Thawra and turned it into a pro-Houthi outlet circulated only in the north Yemen.

Yemen’s Internet provider, Yemennet blocked many anti-Houthi websites, and the Houthi-controlled Ministry of Information accused media outlets of “inciting treason”. Controlling the media became even more prevalent in 2015 after the coalition started their air campaign.

The deadliest violation against press in Yemen, was the death of two Yemeni journalists who reportedly were used as human shields by Houthi forces to protect a military installation.

In another instance, blogger and investigative journalist Mohammed al-Absi, known for reporting on a number of Houthi-related-corruption stories, and withholding of food and medicine and creating a food and medical crisis, was poisoned by the Houthis.

Yemen is one of the most dangerous places to work as a journalist. The Houthis are ranked as the second worst abuser of freedom of press in the world, only the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) surpasses them. Yet, they still control the narrative by corruption and fear.

Khaled Homoud Alshareef holds PhD in Business and he earned Masters in Philosophy. He often writes about Islamism, Islamist factions and modern Terrorism. He tweets under @0khalodi0.

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