"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Privatization in Yemen?

Looks like it.  The Yemen Observer has a pretty interesting interview with Hassan al-Lawzi, the Minister of Information.  In it, he talks about selling radio and TV bands to private citizens.   This is actually a pretty big development, and might go a long way.  The democratization of information is always important to furthering actual democracy.  Yemen already has a history of a lively free pass, though it is stifled in times of trouble (like now).   But I think it is important to note that press restrictions seem a violation, and a controversial one, rather than the norm.  In the region, that is pretty remarkable.

I don't want to overstate the case.  The government will still decide who gets these contracts, and I wouldn't hold my breath expecting pirate radio and TV stations to sprout up.  Print isn't cheap, but a broadcasting infrastructure is considerably more expensive.   There is a decent chance many of the licenses will still go to entrenched interests.   When monied interests are in charge, these mediums can become little more than a way to present commercials at best, and a viewpoint as well. 

Still, this is worth noting, especially when most of the news coming out of Yemen is bad.  This isn't exactly unadulterated good, but it is a reminder of the mass of contradictions and complexity that make up Yemen.  I would read the whole interview.  Predictable propaganda aside, it gives a pretty good look at the breadth of media in the country.

Also, on a side note, is there anything more sinister-sounding than "Minister of Information"?  Maybe "Secretary-General of Ax Violence", but that doesn't count because it only exists in Turkmenistan.

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