Western media and Yemen: Did you say 'Decisive Storm'?

Western media and Yemen: Did you say 'Decisive Storm'?
Analysis: Foreign media have shown little substantive interest in the regional war brewing in Yemen.
4 min read
28 March, 2015
Events in Yemen have been of little concern to most Western media outlets [Shaif Thabet/Anadolu/Getty]

While the Arab media were convulsed over the events in Yemen, with fears over the fall of Aden and reports of the departure of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi last Wednesday, along with the launch of the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm on Thursday, the Western media was preoccupied with other matters.

Different priorities

News about Yemen was at the bottom of the list as far as the western media was concerned, which were busy covering the Germanwings plane crash and the news that singer Zayn Malik was leaving the group One Direction, as well as the UK forthcoming elections on May 7.

UK-based The Guardian newspaper briefly mentioned the events in Yemen, focusing mainly on the Germanwings plane crash and Zayn Malik. The same applies for The Independent, another leading UK newspaper.

US newspapers seemed more interested in the events in Yemen, since Washington is supporting anti-Houthi military operations. The Washington Post newspaper published several stories on Yemen, trying to provide its readers with a clear explanation of the situation, as well as an infographic titled "Chaos in Yemen". It also focused on reports on Egypt's participation in the strikes.

News from Yemen was a low priority in Western media, which was busy covering the Germanwings plane crash and Zayn Malik leaving One Direction.

Despite focusing mainly on the New York building fire, the New York Times still published several stories on Yemen, such as "The Crisis in Yemen: What You Need to Know", as well as stories on Egypt's participation in the military operation and the impact of the events in Yemen on oil prices. It also published an infographic explaining the chaos in Yemen.

Business Insider focused on the economic impact of the strikes in Yemen and the increase of oil prices due to Saudi Arabia's participation in the military operation, while the Huffington Post ran regular coverage on the issue.

On the other hand, while the Al-Jazeera English website published a story arguing that the events in Yemen were not based on sectarianism, Fox News interviewed Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubeir to speak about the military operation in Yemen. The US-based television channel tried to condemn President Barack Obama through all its questions to Jubeir, indicating that Obama was contributing to the strikes against the Iran-backed Houthis while negotiating on Iran's nuclear programme. When the presenter asked Jubeir on the background of the sectarian military operation, he did not deny it, elaborating on the sectarian conflict behind the strikes.

CNN provided its viewers with background reports on Operation Decisive Storm and the events in Yemen. In addition to focusing on US support for the Saudi operation in Yemen, CNN interviewed an expert to speak about the situation there. "Saudi Arabia fears the establishment of a Shia government in Yemen through the Iran-backed Houthis", the channel pointed out. "The Shia government is more frightening to them than al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group."

As for BBC, it made reports titled "Who are the Houthis?" and "Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?" as well as a report on the war between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen.

French media uninterested

The scene was not very different in French media. The French Liberation newspaper attempted to delve into the complications of this war and the related alliances, explaining how Egyptians (the current regime and its supposed "enemies", the Muslim Brotherhood) agreed on attacking the Houthis.

In yesterday's issue, Le Monde's front page headline was "Yemen: the clash between Iran and Saudi Arabia". And in an investigative piece on the wars in Yemeni territories, Le Monde's Washington correspondent wrote: "from Egyptian-Saudi clashes during Gamal Abdul Nasser's rule to the latest air strikes, as well as the war between Yemen's north and south and the US's war on al-Qaeda in Yemen."

Le Figaro focused its coverage on the Germanwings plane crash, with a small headline on the top corner of the page dedicated to the air strikes on Yemen.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.