After years of abiding by government rules, journalists in Yemeni state newspapers absolved themselves of false news stories they have published about the recent protests that call for toppling President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Journalists at al-Thawra newspaper, Yemen’s top state-run publication, issued a statement expressing their resentment at what they called the misleading role played by official media.
“We wash our hands of the media’s violation of journalistic and professional ethics,” said the statement. “The media should be objective in the way it communicates news to the people.”
The statement, signed by dozens of al-Thawra journalists, accused the paper of intentional falsification of national events in order to force its ideologies on the public opinion.
Signatories of the statement admitted that Yemeni official media has never been objective and has always been twisting facts to suit its purposes, yet they argued that the violations are becoming much more flagrant now that anti-government protests are sweeping the country.
The journalists declared their support for political reforms demanded by the protestors and asserted their legal and constitutional right to demand similar reforms in the media.
“We want to purify official media and make it the voice of the people. It is the people who fund this media.”
Accomplices in crime
Journalists at al-Gomhoria newspaper, based in the southwestern city of Taiz, said that the role played by official newspapers during the latest unrest renders them accomplices in the atrocities committed by the government against the revolutionaries and the way they tarnish their image.
“These protestors are peacefully demanding change while the media describes them as ‘saboteurs’ one time and ‘disruptors of public safety’ another time and incites the people against them in order to drag the country to a civil war,” al-Gomhoria journalists said in a statement, of which AlArabiya.net obtained a copy.
The statement added that the official media has become another weapon used by the government not only to fight the protestors, but also to cover up the non-stop crimes they commit against them.
“We demand that official newspapers convey a truthful image of the protests and offer an objective coverage instead of suppressing the people.”
Similarly, the union of journalists working at the Yemeni News Agency Saba called upon official media to adhere to objectivity as the main principle of journalism and to avoid taking sides.
For political analyst Kamel al-Sharaabi, journalists are no longer state employees who do what they are told and who are intimidated by threats of dismissal in case they speak their mind or object to orders given to them.
“These statements issued by journalists represent a revolution after a long silence,” he told AlArabiya.net.
This revolution, he added, was mainly triggered by the latest violations committed by the government against protestors and especially the massacre that took place Friday in front of Sanaa University in the Yemeni capital.
In protest of government violations, chairman of the Yemeni News Agency Nasrallah Mustafa submitted his resignation from the agency and the ruling party after Friday’s massacres.
“Nothing whatsoever justifies killing dozens of youths whose only mistake is demanding their legitimate rights in a peaceful manner,” he said.
Samir Rashad al-Youssefi, chairman of al-Gomhoria Press Association, and editor-in-chief of the paper, and Abdul Rahman Baghash, editorial manager of al-Thawra newspaper, also resigned from their positions.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)