Write what you’re told
– Analysis of how Propaganda works in Yemen
“All propaganda during President Saleh’s rule is controlled by his own government, really a censor”, says the Swedish Professor Emeritus Jan Larsson, 73 years old, about the propaganda in Yemen. Larsson gathered a lot of experience “about this part of the world” through his longstanding personal contact with different sultans.
Report by Jennifer Pompe
“I was in contact with the late sultan Hussein bin Ali al Kathiri who was the last sultan of Seiyun in Hadhramaut, now in the southern part of Yemen. I also have been in contact with sultan Ghalib bin Awad al Qu’aiti, the biggest sultanate in the same southern part and in the northern part I was in contact with Mohammed al Badr for some years. These three have given me lots on information, of course based of their own way of thinking about what happened with their countries.”
To propaganda in general Larsson has always had a sceptic view and very seldom trusts it. He thinks even the people in Yemen in common are very sceptic about what is told through propaganda in TV, Radio and Newspapers. “Maybe except the tribe supporting President Saleh’s rule”, he says.
Besides for this a large part of the population is still not used to propaganda and in Larsson’s view “parts of the older population in Yemen still remember the time when the Imams ruled”. He guesses that they still are afraid of authorities, remembering the despotic rule the Imams had.
In the beginning of President Saleh’s rule there was almost no propaganda neither during the civil war between the royal forces and those of Saleh. Later on, when the propaganda against Saleh increased, he forbade free press and radio. “All propaganda during Saleh is controlled by his own government, really a censor. Nothing oppositional against him can be published”, says Larsson.
Larsson also thinks that none of the propaganda, for both President Saleh and his current opponent Sadiq al- Ahmar, is relevant. “Propaganda, controlled by some state department, is useless”, from his point of view.
He also says that from the beginning a great part of the Yemenite population accepted Saleh as he once ousted the ruling Imam-family and the Imam-king Ahmed. “When the former British protectorate of Aden was united with the old Yemen, the population in the south first saw Saleh as a liberator from the communist-rule they had there since long. Soon they found that the dictatorship of Saleh was corrupt and really non-democratic. He has had very little support there since many years.”
In Larsson’s view the future situation in Yemen depends very much on the question if there will be any political parties, not connected with the former regime. “At the moment such parties do not exist there”.
Larsson knows that just now everything seems very chaotic in Yemen, at least in the Northern part. “Saleh has to go, and as he still is in Saudi Arabia” he says.
By experience Larsson knows that Yemen needs some very honest people who can be trusted by the population. “After such a long period of dictatorship it will be like in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and most of the other Muslim countries. It will take a long time before a trustful propaganda can be seen.
The only country which has had success with trustful propaganda is the Maldives after the Gayoom dictatorship.” Larsson is really surprised that it was possible, but with a man like Mohammed Nasheed there it was and is possible in his view. Larsson also mentions South Africa. “Nelson Mandela did a great job and had the confidence by the population”.
In Larsson’s opinion the issue is that the “present regime in Yemen is going to create a law in which the press ´will have responsibility´, which means that they can´t tell the population things which are against the rulers.”
Larsson “can’t understand why they just depose Saleh and start a democratic process.”