Yemen has closed two independent news networks. The networks www.al-shoura.net and www.aleshteraki.net were shut down because they did not follow government regulations. They were shut down without a court ruling, and are the latest in the government’s growing restrictions on the information about the conflict. Previously, it has silenced television and radio stations, as well as NGOs. Yemen Journalist Syndicate Secretary-General Marwan Dammaj said, “The Ministry of Information has issued instructions to journalists and editors not to cover the war in Sa’ada in a way that runs counter to the official media’s reporting.”
The war between the Shiite rebels and the Yemen government has destroyed the Sa’ada region. It has displaced nearly 35,000 people from their homes casting them out to desperate situations. In May 2005, the Yemen government estimated that the conflict caused 552 deaths, almost 3,000 injuries and nearly $270 million dollars of economic damage. The rebel movement began in 2004, by Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, Yemen’s head of the Zaidi sect of Shia Islam. His followers are called the “Shabab al-Mu’minoon,” which translated means Believing Youth. The rebels disagree with the government’s close alliance with America and Israel. Although its vision is unclear, it is clear that the Believing Youth do want to overthrow the government and replace it with the Zaidi imamate, who was ousted in 1962. According to estimates, the Believing Youth have enrolled over 3,000 fighters into their cause.
The two stations reported the fighting and the human tragedy in the area, and contradicting the state sponsored news sites. This action raises concerns, especially since the government just launched an attack of 30,000 soldiers to defeat the “terrorists.” If the government exclusively controls the information of the media then it is likely that the true conditions of the residents of suffering in Sa’ada may not be known.
Middle East Online. Yemen censors two opposition news websites. 28 May 2007.
Reuters Online. Yemen President says he will consider rebels demands. 22 May 2007.
World Press. Yemen: Fighting in North Hampers Humanitarian Work. 6 May 2007.