CHICAGO: The mainstream news media’s failure to fully cover violence in Yemen is preventing peace and fueling the continued Iran-backed Houthi violence there, veteran Yemeni journalist Saeed Al-Batati said Wednesday.
Al-Batati, a war correspondent for Arab News in Yemen, said that the absence of aggressive media coverage was a contributing factor in why the Houthis have rejected peace and continued their bloody violence. Some media have covered the violence but the reporting has been sparse, he said.
Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition of forces to stem the Houthi violence, unveiled a peace plan that was hailed as having the ability to help bring the conflict to a non-violent end. But the Houthis, without world pressure, rejected the plan and stepped up ballistic missile and drone strikes against civilian targets.
On June 5, a Houthi ballistic missile that many believe was supplied by Iran hit a gas station in Marib, killing 21 civilians, including a 5-year-old girl, and seriously wounding dozens more.
The emboldened Houthis doubled-down on their terrorism by sending a bomb-ladened drone to strike the ambulances and first responders sent to aid the victims.
“That was the deadliest attack and Houthi strike in areas that matter. A group of people, dozens of people were queuing outside a gas station to refuel. Then there was Taher Mohammed and his daughter Lian,” Al-Batati said.
“Suddenly a missile strike — a ballistic missile, local people said — a ballistic missile ripped through the area triggering an explosion. And when the people came, when the ambulances and first responders came to take the wounded, another explosion occurred there. Some said it was due to a ballistic missile, others said no, it was an explosive-laden drone. The strike killed at least 21 people, according to official figures. And then this horrible picture of a completely distraught father hugging his daughter.”
The image of Lian Mohammed’s charred remains shocked many but did not attract the coverage that violence in other areas of the region has received, Al-Batati said.
The Houthis denied the Marib attack took place, insisting that their assault targeted a government military base. But journalists at the scene confirmed the civilian deaths.
“This incident reminded me of another incident in January 2020 when the mood was high for a possible peace deal to end the war. Everyone was talking about the air strikes by the Arab coalition or planes dropping significantly,” Al-Batati said.
“We thought that we were close to a settlement, I mean a peace settlement to end the war. Suddenly, a deadly missile strike by the Houthis killed more than 100 soldiers and civilians in Marib. Now people are talking about heavy diplomatic efforts to end the war. We are happy that this war might come to an end soon because of these diplomatic efforts. And suddenly this tragic incident in Marib brings us back to the same area.”
In both cases, Al-Battati said, the failure of the media to give adequate coverage to the violence has allowed the Houthis to deny their terrorism and has muted world outrage. The result, he said, is that the Houthis are emboldened to inflict more death and destruction while denying their violence.
“If the deadly missile strike in Marib had happened somewhere else, or had been by the Arab coalition warplanes, there would have been much, much more coverage,” Al-Batati said.
“Other than some news wires, that was not much coverage … I don’t know why but Yemen is not getting much attention like other conflicts in the region such as Syria. This is what we see.”
- Al-Batati was a guest on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” which is hosted by the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News newspaper. The radio show is broadcast live in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700 radio. The program was streamed live at Facebook.com/ArabNews and on at ArabRadio.us.