Yemen welcomes international journalists

Published on 19 February 2012 in View Point
Nadia Al-Sakkaf (author)

Nadia Al-Sakkaf


Suddenly, after so much scaring off and bullying, the Yemeni government has had a change of heart towards foreign journalists and is allowing them to enter the country easily, especially in the run up to this week’s presidential elections.

This is a huge change from 2011. At the beginning of the uprising four western journalists were deported from Yemen. The excuse was that they were not in the country on journalist visas and hence were illegally working in Yemen. Ironically, prior to this deportation they were invited officially to press conferences, one including the president.

Moreover, foreign journalists generally were not allowed to enter the country on journalist visas so in order to cover the uprising they had to enter the country under other pretexts.

Now there is a breakthrough in the attitudes towards the foreign media, which is heartening. I personally have a problem with much of the western media’s reporting on Yemen, as it endorses stereotypes and looks only for terrorism news. However, having the journalists in Yemen will give our country a better chance of being reflected as it really is.

Most of the journalists who come to work in Yemen enjoy living here and their attitude to Yemen has dramatically changed. Before arriving in Yemen they had security and safety concerns. Within weeks they adapted and began their personal adventures – sometimes taking bigger risks than native journalists themselves because they clearly understood the reality of Yemen, and how to deal with any real risks rather than simply heed their government’s exaggerated travel warnings.

If we allow Yemen to open up to the world we can help improve its image and while most journalists will no doubt write the Al-Qaeda story at some point, they will also inevitably write a story on the historical beauty of the old city, or the environmental miracles of Socotra Island or just how great our Salta dish is.

It is almost impossible to live in Yemen and take home cherished memories from the country and its people.

I hope that this openness towards foreign journalists continues, and I hope that journalists make the most of it and try to give my country a fair chance both in Yemen and at home.