Media and the NDC

Published on 15 July 2013 in Report
Ali Abulohoom (author)

Ali Abulohoom


Media institutions have unfairly covered the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) and have produced a distorted image of the conference to citizens, said director of the NDC Media Center Mohammed Al-Asadi.

The NDC has garnered heavy media coverage since the formation of the NDC technical committee in July 2012 and its opening session in March.

The NDC was one of the outcomes of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative that ended the political deadlock following the uprising in 2011.

The initiative and conference have broad international and regional support, with fears that a failed conference could trigger a civil war in the country.

Al-Asadi told the Yemen Times that it was the media’s responsibility to inform the public of the tremendous value of the NDC and to present it as a roadmap towards national reconciliation.

“Media outlets cover what pleases their owners, not important issues involving the dialogue,” Al-Asadi said.

Coverage, he said, is mostly superficial and concentrates on disputes and differences between NDC representatives. This, Al-Asadi said, presents a distorted picture to Yemenis, representing the conference as political back-and-forth bickering between various political parties and factions.  

“Unfortunately, some media outlets have led people to lose trust in the NDC, because they only cover disputes.”

But Al-Asadi says it’s natural to see dialogue participants with different opinions.

“They represent multi-faceted political trends and opposing parties. However, dialogue has given them a way to unite as one country.”  

REGINE Organization organized a workshop about media and the NDC that Al-Asadi participated in. He presented a paper assessing the performance of media outlets since the beginning of the conference.

In terms of coverage, media outlets can be divided into three camps, Al-Asadi said.

First there is the supportive set—and they are the majority. They consider the NDC a national event and a historic opportunity and have been working to educate people about the NDC.

The second group consists of outlets that are suspicious of the conference and are negative towards it, undermining citizens’ trust in the NDC and its outcomes.

The third camp, according to Al-Asadi, refuses to sufficiently cover the NDC and encourages people to boycott the conference. The political affiliation of the owners or managers of the news outlets leads to this position.

Al-Asadi says that Aden Live Channel represents the third type of media outlet because it not only opposes the NDC but encourages the Southern Movement not to participate in the conference.

Media researcher Taher Shmsan told the Yemen Times that Yemen lacks professional media that adheres to essential journalism principles such as impartiality and objectivity.

Shmsan believes there is a knowledge gap between the people in charge and participating in the NDC on one hand, and ordinary residents on the other.

“For example, the NDC discusses the Transitional Justice Law, but residents don’t know what it refers to—even some NDC members have no idea what it means. The Southern Issue is discussed vaguely amongst those who are tasked with discussing and coming up with solutions. The Sa’ada Issue is still unclear because the media has failed to provide a detailed explanation of it. The description provided by political parties about state-building indicates that they lack knowledge of the issue.”

Shmsan doubts the intentions of most media outlets who cover the NDC.

“By following and analyzing the media scene in Yemen, I have realized that channels cover the NDC as way to simply fill vacant space,” he said.

A study by the Presentation Foundation for Measuring Opinion indicated that males in Yemen follow the NDC sessions more than females. The residents of Dhamar ranked first among Yemeni governorates in terms following the conference.

The study classified media into public and private categories and noted their ownership affiliations. It indicated that the three outlets that provide the most coverage are Al-Thawra newspaper, Yemen Channel and Sana’a Radio. Private media tend to cover the conference in parts and mostly focus on quarrels and disagreements, the study said.