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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Media to be granted more access to Yemen war under new Arab Coalition strategy

Countries draw up plan to counter propaganda and misinformation by Iran-backed rebels

Armoured vehicles of the Al Amalikah brigades parked on the side of a road on June 21, 2018 during the government offensive to seize Hodeidah city from Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Saleh Al Obeidi / AFP
Armoured vehicles of the Al Amalikah brigades parked on the side of a road on June 21, 2018 during the government offensive to seize Hodeidah city from Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Saleh Al Obeidi / AFP

Journalists and academics will be allowed greater access to cover the war in Yemen under a strategy by countries of the Saudi-led coalition to counter rebel and Iranian propaganda.

The policy was announced on Saturday after a meeting in Jeddah of information ministers from the coalition countries fighting the Iran-backed rebels at the request of the Yemeni government.

“We need to curb the Houthi influence on Saudi Arabia, in Yemen, in the world because they serve only Iran without regard to the Yemeni people, and its agenda to destabilise the region,” said Saudi Minister of Information Dr Awwad Alawwad.

He said the coalition had so far liberated 85 per cent of Yemen's territory, and the media had a vital role in getting to the truth to correct what has often been a skewed version of the news in Yemen.

Coalition and government forces are now preparing for an offensive to drive the Houthis out of the port city of Hodeidah, the entry point for most of Yemen's food and humanitarian aid. The rebels have rejected an offer to withdraw unconditionally from the city to prevent civilian casualties and disruption to the flow of aid. The coalition said it has plans in place to minimise the impact on civilians.

Government forces on Saturday repelled an attempt to infiltrate the airport, which was recaptured last week. A Houthi officer was captured in the fighting, a source in the Al Amalikah brigades told The National.

The information ministers' meeting discussed ways to better coordinate on news from Yemen and give media from coalition countries access to areas recaptured from the Houthis this year.

“It’s already happened, but we need to better understand how to facilitate the transfer of information, and to bring truth to light in the face of the Houthis' news outlets,” said a source at the Saudi ministry of information.

The ministers agreed to set up a policy analysis team to coordinate with national news agencies throughout the Arab world.

The ministries of information will also support local news agencies to better cover the situation in Yemen, where the rebels have targeted journalists with imprisonment and torture.

“Hundreds have been tortured or killed, and at least 13 journalists still remain in prison for their work in Yemen,” said Muammer Al Eryani, Yemen's Minister of Information.

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Read more:

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Cash and coercion: how Yemen's rebels get children to fight

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No details were given, but the Saudi ministry of information pledged to ease media access to Yemen, providing room for “journalists and social media influencers to co-ordinate efforts aligned with the coalition’s military”.

A source in the ministry said that would entail embedding media with coalition forces in Yemen and providing them access to areas under government control.

“Our stand with Yemen is an earnest one, and we stand against how the Houthis robbed the Yemeni people of a normal life,” said Minister of State Dr Sultan Al Jaber.

“Despite all that’s happened, we stay steadfast in believing the political solution is the best one, the preferred solution, and the only cure to the situation in Yemen.”

He said that the military gains in Hodeidah apply pressure on the Houthis to come to the negotiation table willing to make concessions for the sake of the Yemeni people.

“The media has a huge role in curbing violence and terrorism, the role to deliver a clear picture and to counter how some who incite violence and use Islam for hatred,” Dr Al Jaber said.

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Coalition details plan to avert humanitarian crisis in Hodeidah

Arab Coalition ready to push into Hodeidah city: Gargash

How the Houthis defend Hodeidah and how the Coalition is outfoxing them

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The ministers said they would continue to meet to refine plans and to further erode Iranian funding of media outlets in Yemen and across the Arab world. They also discussed ways in which they could monitor Iranian propaganda.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia announced that the National Defence Operations Centre had cleared 15 million tonnes of food aid and more than 16 million tonnes of fuel to help alleviate the crisis in Yemen.

The ministry of defence said it had moved 25,471 civilians of 85 nationalities from the country.