Rights group decries media blackout in Yemen – The architecture of a genocide

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SHAFAQNA – If Saudi Arabia’s war has already proven to be aberrantly cruel in nature, and illegal in its execution, it is Riyadh’s ability to silence still all media that has proven most despicable.

If we bear in mind that most of our world realities need to be materialised onto our screens for society to connect with its implications, Saudi Arabia’s game of hide and seek has allowed for a genocide to be not only architected but carried out right under our noses without so much of a murmur of disapproval. What we can’t see can’t hurt us … or so the old adage goes!

In this particular case it is not so much that we have not been able to see, but rather that we were prevented. I would argue that Saudi Arabia’s guilt exists first and foremost in its ambition to engineer artificial realities so that it could carry out mass-murder and still call it political pragmatism. Yemen’s war was never just another military front in an otherwise trouble-ridden, poverty-stricken region of the world we all have learnt to associate with violent chaos.

Yemen’s war is one of annihilation and genocidal theo-imperialism. Yemen’s war is all of ISIS’s wars rolled into one compounded will: that of Wahhabist Saudi Arabia.

Yemen’s war is an affront to our humanity, and yet we have failed to rise a reproach on account our media blanketed it away from our screens – editing and filtering away our rights to grasp realities for ourselves.

Saudi Arabia’s media manipulation carries dangerous repercussions indeed since it touches upon our collective, and may I dare say inalienable right to access objective truths. If we are indeed the product of our environment, we must realise that relinquishing control to what defines that environment through media manipulation essentially equates to the annulment of our most basic human rights indeed: the right to our consciousness.

Since the onset of this war an estimated 12,000 people have died under Saudi Arabia’s fire, tens of thousands have suffered crippling injuries and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their home not to perish under a rain of lead.

Those numbers offer but a small window into the reality that is Yemen under the Kingdom’s wrath. Those numbers it needs to be said are what Riyadh has allowed to transpire and what our international institutions have been willing to admit to.

Truth has been buried deep in Yemen, so deep in fact that the world has chosen to look away out of sheer disinterest, which disinterest has been fed, fanned, and altogether asserted by a grand media blackout.

 26 million souls stand in Saudi Arabia’s line of fire! One would like to think that it gives us 26 million reasons to pay attention, and more importantly challenge the status quo. Allowing a nation to sit under a humanitarian blockade while all civilian infrastructures are being exploded away so that civilian life would become unbearable is beyond the pale – in fact it makes us accessories to a genocide.

Back in April Theo Horesh wrote in a report for Salon.com: “The Saudi-led coalition waging war in Yemen, with the United States’ full support, has been carrying out a bombing campaign that has made it virtually impossible for most of the country to feed itself. The result is that a Yemeni child is starving to death once every 10 minutes, with about 4,000 dying each month. If the death toll continues to rise, Trump could soon have the blood of tens of thousands of children on his hands. How this came about and what it means for the moral integrity of American culture may be the most neglected story of our time.”

That ‘reality’ which Horesh describes was Yemen pre-cholera outbreak! Pre-cholera outbreak, and by the United Nations’ own admission Yemen was staring at a humanitarian abyss of dizzying proportion: “More than 20 million Yemenis require humanitarian support, with nearly half of those in acute need of assistance,” it published in a report.

Fast-forward a little, under absolute media silence … at least a silence proportional to Saudi Arabia’s control over our media, Yemen has descended further into the pit. There are expected to be a million cases of cholera in Yemen by the end of the year, with at least 600,000 children likely to be affected.

Given the scale of the crisis we should demand that light be shed, or least shun upon Yemen so that parties to this war could be challenged, and more importantly held into account. Opening Yemen to foreign journalists would be a good place to start …

In a press release published this October (2017) the Journalists Support Committee in Yemen denounced Saudi Arabia manned media blackout in the strongest terms, arguing that such an action constitute in fact a crime against humanity.

The organisation writes: “The coalition has prevented foreign journalists from entering Yemeni grounds, therefore, preventing media coverage of the dire and dangerous conditions in Yemen.”

And: “The committee notes that the Yemeni authorities -who are led by the internationally recognized president- and the Saudis have consistently restricted journalists from entering Yemen, with excuses that do not match with human rights laws and other international treaties, charters, and conventions or with the preamble of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Saudi Arabia’s desire to exist beyond international law and standards need be challenge on the basis that such an infringement threatens those rights we take for granted … and then of course there is the little matter of human life and what price we place upon it.

By Catherine Shakdam – Director Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies

This article was published first in the Huffington Post

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