28.02.2016 - UNESCO Office in Doha

Supporting Yemeni Media in Promoting Peace and Dialogue


Given the current emergency situation in Yemen and the various responses of the different parties, UNESCO, within its mandate to promote freedom of expression and free access to information, and as part of its ongoing efforts to support media in Yemen, in cooperation with the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and BBC Media Action, held a 5-day event in Amman Jordan between 21 and 25 January, 2016. This significant step towards a coordinated action comes under the overall project: “Promoting Freedom of Expression in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen” funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.

“The level of awareness amongst Yemeni journalists regarding freedom of expression has developed tremendously after 2011. However, 2015 has been the bloodiest in the history of media in Yemen, due to the closure of the majority of media outlets in the country and pressures experienced by most journalists” said Shatha Hattam, investigative journalist and radio presenter and producer.

Information is quintessential for any given society, and particularly when societies are confronted with conflict and war. Access to information ensures that local communities are provided with information that helps them withstand the effects of the conflicts, mainly through humanitarian information. Lack of information, on the other hand, and at any stage of a conflict, can make people desperate, restless and easy to manipulate and may significantly weaken people’s ability to make informed decisions.

As a response to these needs, UNESCO, in cooperation with BBC Media Action held a 3-day workshop on Lifeline programming for 25 journalists and media experts representing various media organizations and outlets in Yemen. The training was provided by BBC Media Action.

“Lifeline programming is special media programming for communities affected by humanitarian crises, including man-made such as conflict. It aims to provide people with timely, relevant and practical information to alleviate their suffering and assist with their recovery. Lifeline programming also aims to give affected people the opportunity to voice their concerns, express their needs, share their stories and solutions to problems, and hold humanitarian aid providers to account” said Jackie Dalton, Humanitarian Communication Specialist with BBC Media Action.

In light of the humanitarian crisis that is affecting the country up until today, it is important that the UN acts together and join forces to respond to the needs of communities in Yemen. “The level of commitment we have seen for this event by the UN as one team is a step in the right direction” said Ma’aly Hazzaz, Project Manager for Extra-budgetary support to enhance freedom of expression in the Arab region.

“We have invited both Yemeni journalists and UN humanitarian agencies working in Yemen to participate because, as the title of the training indicates, communication is aid. In the context of a conflict, information should primarily serve to ensure that people can make informed decisions to protect their life and their safety” she added.

A meeting of experts has proven to be crucial in order to coordinate the adequate response and discuss a strategy to support Yemeni media and the course of action by all partners. For the first time since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015, UNESCO organized a meeting titled “Supporting Yemeni Media in Promoting Peace and Dialogue” that brought together 20 international and regional media support groups, along with over 55 representatives of media in Yemen to identify the priority areas and emerging needs of the media sector in Yemen and to discuss a common strategy to support them.

“Among the major results of the meeting was the identification of priorities and the development of draft action plans to support Yemeni media, and with a possible timeline for action. In addition, a network of international experts was established to provide all possible forms of assistance” explained Ayman Mhanna, Executive Director of GFMD.

"We are committed to do our best to cooperate with all parties to support the rights of Yemeni journalists to have secure and safe working conditions" Monir Zaarour, IFJ Coordinator in the Arab World and the Middle East, added. 

Extensive discussions during the 2-day meeting resulted in recommendations which formulated the basis for an action plan for future programmes supporting media in Yemen.

The action plan developed by the Yemeni journalists with the support of international media support groups focuses on four areas identified as priorities to respond to the needs of the media in Yemen including: reinforcing the safety of journalists and supporting the journalists in need, creating alternative platforms of communication, respecting ethical and professional standards and strengthening the capacities of the syndicate and media groups in supporting journalists in Yemen.

UNESCO’s response to the crisis faced by the media in Yemen through capacity-building and international coordination provided a timely opportunity for Yemeni journalists to reassert the role of the media in promoting peace.

“This was the first international meeting organized to provide a platform for Yemeni journalists from diverse media to debate on the way forward since the beginning of the conflict. The fact that journalists from different backgrounds and media outlets were able to find common grounds on issues such as safety, professionalism and advocacy is a positive development which, we hope, will also help the media in promoting peace and dialogue in Yemen,” said Marion Desmurger, Senior Programme Assistant for Communication and Information at UNESCO Office for the GCC and Yemen.   

The action plan is currently being finalized and will be available by mid-March 2016.

A photo gallery of the experts meeting is accessible here, and photos from the lifeline programming training can be found on this link.

A documentary on UNESCO's response to the crisis faced by the media in Yemen is available here

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