State of the media

In William A. Rugh’s classification in Arab Mass Media (2004), the Yemen press is identified as “diverse.” Its distinguishing characteristic is that “the newspapers are clearly different from each other in content and apparent political tendency as well as in style.” Furthermore, they tend to be privately owned and reflect a variety of viewpoints.

Print Media

Official newspapers supporting the government line are Al-Thawra, 14 October, Al-Gomhouria dailies and the army weekly 26 September, as well as Al-Wahda weekly. The Yemen Times is the first independent English language newspaper. Other important independent publications are Al-Ayyam, Al-Nida, Al-Wasat, Al-Share’e, Al-Nihar, Al-Ghad, Al-Nass and Al-Ahali (all weeklies). Political party newspapers include May 22 and Al-Methaq, two weeklies belonging to the GPC (the ruling party), Al-Sahwa weekly (weekly, Islamic Party), Al-Thawri (weekly, Socialist Party) and Al-Wahdawi (weekly, Nasserite Party).

Yemen’s outspoken press is one of the country’s most important centers of dissent and political debate, and over the last two years, it has become noticeably bolder in exposing high-level corruption and tackling sensitive political issues. However, presidential elections provided the backdrop for a series of troubling attacks against Yemen’s increasingly vocal independent and opposition press, with an upsurge in violence, intimidation, and legal harassment, along with a smear campaign directed by the state-controlled press against independent journalists.

Audiovisual media

The Ministry of Information controls all broadcasting through the Public Corporation for Radio and Television. There are two TV stations, Channel 1 (Sana’a) and Channel 2 (Aden), and two national radio stations, Radio Sana’a and Radio Aden, plus five local radio stations. Programming is generally of poor quality. At the same time, TV and radio are vital sources of news in Yemen because of high levels of illiteracy. Stations from Oman and Saudi Arabia can also be picked up.

Online media

Yemen has two Internet service providers, TeleYemen and Yemen Net . Both are controlled by the government. About 110,000 Yemenis have Internet subscriptions, although many others visit Internet cafes. The price of Internet access is very high so many citizens are unable to afford it. An official report claimed there are some 1,500 public Internet cafés with on average six computer sets per café. The government does not exercise general or violent prohibitions on the web. The government policy of banning the web is rather selective. It mainly focuses on the websites handling sensitive political issues or those that contradict the government. However, authorities do read private emails according to many reports.

News agencies

There is one news agency, Saba News Agency (SABA) that is run by the state.

Media organizations

The Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate (YJS) enjoys a relatively positive reputation because of its role in defending press freedom. Unlike journalists syndicates in many Arab countries, the YJS is not affiliated wirh any political party or organization although it used to be well known for its pro-government stances. In response to this, several independent and opposition party journalists formed a rival union, The Committee for the Defence of Journalists, in 1999 to defend more vigorously journalists harassed by the government. However, the committee disappeared shortly afterwards. Two other organizations were established: the Yemen Female Media Forum in 2004 and the Women Reporters Without Chains in 2005. Both advocate press freedom. The latter issues an annual report on press freedom in Yemen.

Media policies

The Law on the Press and Publication No. 25/1990 regulates media activities in Yemen. The Ministry of Information supervises its application. The Act gives the right to any Yemeni citizen, institution, political party, or group to publish newspapers and magazines.

The Penal Code allows for penalties of up to five years in prison for anyone "insulting their state or state prominent figures" or "publishing false information which may raise sedition and harm the unity of the country".

The Press and Publications Act of 1990 criminalizes the "subjective criticism of the Head of State ... which lacks constructive criticism" and the publication of any "false information" that may spread "chaos and confusion" as well as the publication of any "false reports" aiming to harm any Arab country, friend, or their relationship with Yemen.

According to the IREX Media Sustainability Index, the most significant obstacle to free speech in Yemen, is the 15-year- old press and publication law, which is described as “out-of-date” and written with “a totalitarian mentality.”

Media developments and trends

A Media Law Working Group consisting of Yemeni MPs, public officials, representatives of the Journalists' Syndicate and leading human rights advocates recently met for the first time in 2007 in order to develop proposals for a legislative and regulatory framework which will promote a free, pluralistic and independent media in Yemen, consistent with international standards. The Working Group is organized under the auspices of Article 19 and the Yemen Women Media Forum.