Why Cover South Yemen

May 17, 2022

Southern separatists marching in Aden on August 15, 2019 // Photo credit: Ahmed Shehab Alqadi

In any conflict, media and research play a significant role in addressing the critical and complex issues that the country is witnessing and shaping international policy toward that country. In South Yemen, those critical issues have been largely ignored or misrepresented in the media and other information and education platforms. Our focus on and coverage of South Yemen aims to offer a greater understanding of the society, politics, and culture of the people of South Yemen, including the southern diaspora community across the globe, with local sources and southern perspectives.

At the beginning of the conflict in Yemen in 2015, media outlets and research centers rushed to cover and analyze the events and developments taking place there. However, coverage of the conflict declined gradually throughout the past seven years and became ladened with bias and disinformation. During this time, the situation in South Yemen received little coverage, yet, a considerable amount of disinformation was published, which affected U.S. policy and understanding of the war dynamics in the South. That media approach towards the South has been consistent since the birth of the Southern Movement in 2007. 

According to many southerners, the lack of coverage and disinformation is due to years of media blackout implemented by the Yemeni government and the deliberate distortion and fabrication of the news by correspondents and institutions obsequious to political agendas. The suppression of information in the South took a severe turn in 2009 when the Saleh government started closing southern newspapers and even banned the sale of several North Yemeni newspapers that published stories about the unrest in South Yemen and southerners' demands for independence. At the time, The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Yemeni government to end the censorship. However, the censorship increased year after year, and talking about the South was criminalized, leading to many editors and writers being imprisoned and tortured. Foreign press and researchers were intimidated and discouraged from visiting or writing about the South. The media blackout policy continued under the Hadi government, adding a copious amount of disinformation by journalists and institutions affiliated with or sharing the same political agenda as the Hadi government and international media and policy institutions misinformed about South Yemen.

As the South continues to witness significant developments, objectivity and impartiality in reporting the news and researching the crisis are essential. Having a diversity of sources also provides a clear and accurate reading of the situation on the ground, thus avoiding bias and censorship. 

The international community must acknowledge that there are multiple sides to the conflict in Yemen and that South Yemen has its own story, history, culture, and political desires distinguishable from the conflict parties of the North. Furthermore, there is a great deal of dissonance between North and South, and having a one-size-fits-all policy when discussing the Yemen crisis is no longer viable.