The Yemeni Media System – Script (en)

Translation & Subtitles by Jeida Elkersh – Freie Universität Berlin 



The strategic location of Yemen overlooking the most significant waterways in the world was an attractive cause for colonial aspirations, aiming to control world trade routes throughout history.

Aden in South Yemen, represented one of the key cards for the British Empire,

while North Yemen remained under the power of the Ottoman State.

The British brought along a number of cultures and beliefs, which they intended to implement in the Colony of Aden.

In this context, the media was considered the most effective tool to enforce the occupation.

In 1853, the British introduced the first printed press to South Yemen. It was bilingual written in English and Arabic.  In the North, the Ottoman occupation forces followed the same patterns as the British occupation in the South.  In 1872, the Ottomans introduced their own printing press to North Yemen, which was also bilingual, printed in Turkish and Arabic.

That marked the beginning of the formation of the Yemeni media system.


Radio BC

This is Aden, Radio of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.


Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Gabbar Sallam, Professor of Journalism History

The beginnings of the media system varied in time due to the country being divided into the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen in the north, the British occupation in the south, as well as the presence of immigrant communities from Asia, Africa and Arab countries.


When the Turkish arrived in 1872, they issued the first newspaper, called Yemen, in Turkish.

Six years later, they released, Sana’a newspaper, an Ottoman newspaper.

Several years later, they published two pages in Arabic and another two in Turkish.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Sana’a newspaper was more like a pamphlet, being two paged in Arabic and Turkish, and mainly covering topics about the Turkish rule.


Dr. Samia Al Aghbari, Professor, History of Journalism

One cannot ignore or forget the Journalism of Hadhramaut. The Hadhramautis are the pioneers of the Yemeni journalism, especially the written press which started in Hadhramaut.

The most important newspaper, As-Sail [Torrent] started in 1911.


World War I

Following World War I, Yemen was turned into an imamate. The Imam took over the reign and the Turks evacuated Yemen. There were no newspapers released in 1918. Turkish papers were abolished, also no other papers were issued until 1926, when the Imam launched a paper called Sahifat Al-Iman [Faith Newspaper].


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Sahifat Al Iman [Faith Newspaper] is considered the first official newspaper of the Yemenite Mutawakkiliya imamate playing a moderate role in journalism, mainly covering state news.


(Arabic Poem read from the newspaper)


Dr. Samia Al Aghbari, Prof. of History of Journalism

It was of poor printing, regarding the number of pages, and it targeted the elite. So it was of limited distribution.



In 1938, tens of Yemeni writers emerged. At the top of the list were Al-Zubairi, Al-Nooman, Al-Motaa. Together
they founded Al-Hekma [wisdom] magazine.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Their magazine was considered one of the most important magazines founded for revival of culture, politics, views, literature, poetry and it was the central magazine at the time.


Al-Hekma Al-Yamaniyah [The Yemeni Wisdom] – First edition – 1935:

After the Arab abided the principles of Islam, they rose to spread the calling of truth among nations ruled by the Persians and the Romans. Soon, the region joined them under the Islamic Flag.



The topics adopted by the magazine such as reform and change evoked a sense of danger for the Imam, who consequently ordered its immediate closure. The journalistic environment in the North started to witness a huge turning point.

Many writers and intellectuals faced imprisonment, discrimination and torture by the Imam’s rule. The most prominent among them was Mohamed Mahmoud Al-Zobairi. Many were forced to flee to the south to enjoy more freedom of press there. In the south, those intellectual refugees initiated Fatat-Al-Jazira [Young woman of the Peninsula] newspaper.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Fatat Al-Jazira was a national independent newspaper. It is considered to have established a national independent press. The paper did not only represent diverse positions, but also prepared the platform for Yemenis publishing both in the north and south.

Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Gabbar Sallam, Professor of Journalism History

As for the north, it was calling for liberation from the Imam’s Rule.



Decades have passed while I have been trying to issue an Arabic newspaper about modern and sophisticated culture in these remote areas. Now, the circumstances have allowed me to bring Fatat Al Jazira  out to the world, whilst the war’s flame is ignited, fear and worry are spread allover.


Abdelbari Taher , Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

There was a flourishing effect for civil society such as the formation of political parties and issuing of other newspapers like Sahifat Al-Fodul [curiosity newspaper]. Abdallah Abdel-Wahab Nooman, poet and founder of the newspaper was named the curious. The paper was positively received by readers and became famous. It was first launched in 1948, written in a sarcastic and witty style. It was well received among people, to the extent that illiterate workers used to buy it and let the educated recite it for them in the evening.



The nut vendors heard that the governor had bought nuts and almonds during the costume party in the eastern club. And on the opening day of the parliament they thought it was a costume party so they lined up on their way to the parliament, wearing new clothes – traditional Yemeni clothes for men – and carrying new bags.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate    

And this wish restricted the handling and apprecaiting of knowledge. The radio’s concept in the first place was to depend upon hearing.



This is Radio of Eden. Radio of the Democratic people’s republic of Yemen.

The start of the broadcast was in the early forties of the twentieth century in the southern part of Yemen which was under occupation.The Radio’s initial mission was to provide the British army soldiers with news of world war II.

1954, Radio of Aden was established as the first official radio broadcaster in the Arabian Peninsula.

1947, the broadcast had started after the Yemeni army was offered a wireless radio station by the American army.

The mid-1950s also marked the beginning of radio broadcasting, in the Yemenite Mutawakkiliya. But, it was limited and did not exceed the border of the capital city Sana’a.


Radio BC

The Radio of the Yemeni Republic from Sana’a

Issues and events



During the mid-fifties, the development of journalism in the north resulted in the foundation of many newspapers, Al-Iman, Al-Nasr and As-Saba being the most famous.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

There is no doubt about the variety that had developed in journalism. Variety in terms of content, performance and thoughts.


It is to mention, that the journalism of Aden is considered to be the founding journalism, having been established in a democratic margin of general freedom rights and freedom of opinion and expression. It included independent press, workers’ press such as Sout Al ‘Omal [workers’ voice], syndicate press and another newspaper named Al-Mustaqbal [the future] was also issued. Its skillful editor-in-chief was Abdallah Bazib.



Abdallah Bazib, was considered one of the national icons who opened up to Marxism. He was a very talented writer and published a magazine at the age of seventeen. Bazib’s standpoints made him a point of concern for the authorities. His article “New Jesus who speaks English” caused turmoil and fear.


Dr. Samia Al Aghbari , Professor of History of Journalism

This article was a sarcastic article, criticizing the British Occupation. This resulted in his arrest and trial, the first trial of a journalist in the history of Yemeni Journalism. During his trial, the crowds filled the streets in Aden from the court to the gate of Aden.



After the harassment he faced, he moved to Taiz and founded Al-Tali’a [the pioneer].


Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Gabbar Sallam, Professor of Journalism History

Al Talia’a newspaper brought a new concept of the press to the north.



The newspaper introduced commercialism in the media and focused on promoting national unity and humanity.



The colonial activity in the South is increasing and expanding day by day and within a few days it has taken many steps to expand its exploiting and destructing projects in the beloved Yemen.


Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Gabbar Sallam, Professor of Journalism History

But shortly, after few editions Al-Tali’a newspaper was abolished.


The Revolution of 26 September 1962



The Yemeni radio played a significant role in the Revolution in 1962.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Due to the vast illiteracy, exceeding 90%, the radio broadcast can be considered as an actual leader during the revolution in the North. It was a source for decision-making, politics and guidance of the people.

The radio played a significant role in bringing up the revolution and maintained this role. It influenced public opinion to defend the revolution and the republic.


Radio BC:

To every merchant, worker, employee and soldier, those who suffered from pain and misery, those who stayed up day and night, whose children, wives, siblings and parents died of hunger and disease..


After the declaration of the Republic in 1962, it was impossible for the new system to function along the old mechanisms of journalism in the decades before. Hence, the military leaders in Taiz invited the journalists who worked for Al-Nasr, As-Saba and Al-Iman, and assigned them to create new newspapers, corresponding with the new revolutionary era in Yemen. Accordingly, Al-Thawra [the revolution], Al-Gomhoreya [the republic], Al-Sha’b [the volk], Al-Ahd-Al-Gadid [the new era] were released.


Abdelbari Taher , Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

1962, Al-Thawra [the revolution] then Al-Gomhoreya [the republic] were issued as official newspapers.



–          The revolution captures Yemen and the army takes the lead.

–          The army blows up tribes and buries the tyrant.

–          The declaration of the Arabic Yemeni Republic and the fall of the monarchy.

–          The army eradicates the traitorous and radical elements in Sana’a.


With the revolution in 1962, the radio of Taiz was established in the north to form a prominent voice for the revolution.


Taiz’ Radio

–          Founded immediately after the breakout of the revolution of 26th of September 1962.

–          Its objective was to spread the voice of the revolution across the country.

–          Its broadcast started in 1963.

–          Its premises in Taiz were destroyed by the Houthis on the 22nd of December 2015.


Abdelbari Taher , Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

In the same manner as Sana’a’s radio in the North, Taiz’ radio also played an important role in directing the public opinion, regarding the protection of the revolution and the republic in the South.



TV broadcast started in Yemen in 1964 when the British occupation established the Yemeni television station in the south.


Abdelbari Taher , Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Aden television, established in the mid-sixties, was the first television station in the peninsula of Aden. By starting television broadcast, the British occupation aimed to distract the Yemeni people from their main cause and neutralize them from participating in the armed struggle. The northern TV-broadcast in Sana’a started in 1975 with a daily duration of 17 hours.

Evacuaion of the British Forces

Following the independence and evacuation of the British Occupation from Aden in 1967, the first decree issued by the new government was to withdraw and discontinue all existing newspapers in Aden.


Qahtan Mohamed Al-Sha’bi, First President of the Southern People’s Republic

This created a relapse, in a glimpse of an eye, in the history of journalism in the south. Newspapers vanished from the scene. Moreover, all printed press was nationalized under the organization of 14th of October.


Simultaneously, Al-Mukla Radio was founded in Hadhramaut.


Al-Mukla Radio

–       Founded on September 28th in 1967.

–       Its range covered Al-Mukla and its suburbs.

–       The radio played an outstanding role in encouraging the people to support the national front.



After independence the press’ voice drastically faded in the South. The newspaper of October 14th, the only newspaper that lasted, was issued secretly. The 3rd of November 1967 marks a point of change in our people’s history. It brought along new responsibilities and challenges, such as the violent struggle against the colonization throughout the whole past century, during the sixties, and the day they got out of our lands.


In April 1976, the Syndicate of Journalists was established in the North. Following, the Syndicate of Yemeni Journalists in the South. The arrival of President Ali Abdallah Saleh in 1978 marked an increase in the promotion of freedoms and a boom in journalism in the North. The door for pluralistic journalism was opened when Ali Abdallah Saleh permitted the issuance of two newspapers.


Al-Amal [the hope] newspaper, expressing the politics of the secret communist party in the north. And Al-Sahwa [the awakening] newspaper, issued until this day, representing the Muslim Brotherhood.



Tomorrow, the 30th of November marks the 25th anniversary of the southern independence from the control and exploitation by the abhorred British occupation.



1982, the press law was warranted, which allowed the release of independent newspapers according to specific restrictions.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

The first law in the Republic of Yemen was released in 1983. The law included 120 articles, most of them warnings, prohibits, criminalization, depriving freedom and suppressing the public opinion and freedom of expression.

Publications attacking rulers of neighboring countries are prohibited in order to avoid disturbances in Yemen’s foreign policy. It is also forbidden to spread biased news that aim to influence the value of the local currency or distract the public’s thoughts with regard to the economic situation of the country.

Announcement / Declaration of the Yemeni Republic 1990.


Ali Abdallah Saleh

The Announcement of the Yemeni Republic takes place tomorrow at noon and all flags of the Yemeni state will be raised on all organizations and institutions.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Yemen did not experience any true freedom of expression or freedom of opinion. Even the constitution did not include such rights. There was no law protecting the right of publishing nor the exercise of freedom until the 22nd of May. Thus, the freedom of publishing was not guaranteed until the 22nd of May 1990. Prior to this date, there was no freedom either in the north or the south.


Dr. Belqes Mohamed Elwan, Assistant Prof., TV and Radiobroadcast Department

The phase following the unification of Yemen in 1990 was considered to be the most radiant in the history of Yemeni Media. There was a drastic rise of publications in the field of print journalism since many newspapers were inaugurated, published their first editions and lasted for long periods.


Civil War of Yemen

The war of the summer in 1994 set an end to the prosperity of the media in Yemen. Upon the war many press voices were closed and only a single voice was allowed to rule after war.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

The situation after the war in 1994 deteriorated. Freedom of opinion and expression was hampered, democracy abolished and parties were suppressed and martial law was enforced.


Dr. Belqes Mohamed Elwan, Assistant Prof., TV and Radiobroadcast Department

Every now and then we see some new developments, there was a constant cycle of repression and liberation: broadcast channels, newspaper and websites prevailed that supported a certain party. At certain periods, the situation would change and the chance would be given to all to publish, then these opportunities would vanish again. And the scene would then change again to declare one person whose opinion would overrule all others. Or we might say he would have the louder voice.



Ayam [days] Newspaper was one of those media cases that was confiscated.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

This newspaper faced two real wars. The newspaper was civil and independent and its editor-in-chief the deceased Hisham Bashraheal was considered one of the great media figures of its time. He republished the newspaper after the unification of Yemen and faced many threats due to the newspaper’s independence and civility. It also defended the south  and was located there. A war against the south, initiated in Sana’a, was carried on to Aden and led to its blockade for almost a week.


El Ayam’s venue’s attacking

During this blockade, the newspaper’s building was destroyed. It was sealed and its editor-in-chief and his family almost faced death. He later died of grief as the newspaper and his properties were confiscated. Bashareal died while demanding compensation and justice.



Upon the declaration of the Yemeni unification in 1990, the TV media division was ended and Sanaa’s channel in the north was changed to become Channel one. In the south, the Aden channel was transformed to Channel two. On the 20th of December 1995, TV broadcast in Yemen started to enter satellite broadcasting.



After introducing technology to the world of media and journalism, it witnessed a great development exemplified by the number of newspapers and websites on the internet. It also opened wide horizons for freedom of opinion and expression.


Dr. Belqes Mohamed Elwan, Assistant Prof., TV and Radiobroadcast Department

The internet offered a very wide space for citizen’s journalism. Every journalist, every citizen could now create his own account on Facebook, on Twitter and any other social media platform. Hereby, he became the journalist, the editor and the editor-in-chief. Also, the interactional feature offered the opportunity for outreach, participation and dissemination at all levels.


The technological development was also reflected in the field of TV, radio broadcasting, and the press. Electronic journalism made a great leap, leap-frogging decades of time. A development that hadn’t taken place in decades had happened within months or maybe even weeks.


As for the conceptual level, we still need to work on the profession’s ethics in electronic media and its professional performance.



The revolution of the 11th of February 2011 is considered the second turning point for the freedom of media and press in Yemen after the unification in 1990.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

The Arab Spring revolution in Yemen created a democratic atmosphere and opened up freedoms. A number of newspapers were published, also newsletters. This atmosphere layed the foundation for a civil united federal state, had it not been for the war that was soon to start among the nation. This war erased all democratic efforts, destroyed the constitution project and eliminated any dialogues. Now, the nation is suffering under again suppression of freedoms and absence of rights of free expression.



This vent for freedom of Yemeni press and media did not last for long, before the media state deteriorated after the recent events in the country.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Nowadays, there isn’t even any independent media at any level. Neither in the north, nor in the south.


Dr. Belqes, Assistant Prof., TV and Radiobroadcast Department

The current status of Yemeni media may be at its lowest level of professional performance as well as in terms of freedoms guaranteed. What is happening now is not considered journalism. It might be called hate speech, mobilization of public opinion or party-biased reporting. Each side is talking negatively about the other party. Unfortunately, all parties who owned authority throughout the time never believed in the media’s independence.



Dozens of journalists were killed, others were kidnapped, forced into exile, tortured, or expatriated in all its forms.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Today there are many journalists kidnapped or expatriated.



Reporters without Borders condemned the killing of a journalist in Yemen and the disappearance of dozens in the prisons of Houthis.


Abdelbari Taher, Former Head of the Journalists’ Syndicate

Journalists were killed, journalists were kidnapped to dangerous places. Today, 38 journalists of Saba’a news association are being threatened of being fired from their jobs. Today hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs either in the official media or national press which was eliminated. The parties’ press was also eliminated and channels and websites confiscated. Consequently, today we live in an overall oppression of opinion and expression.


Violations against journalists in Yemen 2015

–          14 killed

Journalists and people in the media branch.


Assassination attempts

–          9 cases

Cases that experienced assassination attempts.



–          40 cases

Journalists and social media activists.



–          214 cases

Abducted by armed troops/groups.



–          69 people

Received threats of killing, abduction, arrests and other.


Violent assaults

–          42 cases

Experienced different levels of violence.



–          13 casualties

Various levels of injuries.



–          46 cases

Break-ins into media, press and social media headquarters.


Forced stop of action

–          82 organizations

Stopped working upon experiencing violations.



–          620 people

Lost their jobs after organizations have been closed

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