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Houthi media machine follows Iran's example

Yemeni children help to carry coffins of schoolchildren during a funeral in Sanaa on April 10th. The Houthis held the mass funeral for children killed in an April 7th explosion that they blamed on the Arab coalition. Human Rights Watch has since said the Iran-backed militia is to blame. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Late last month, social media giants Facebook and Twitter shuttered hundreds of accounts linked to an Iran-based social media campaign that had been attempting to sway public opinion in favour of Iranian interests.

Earlier this year, Facebook said it took down hundreds of "inauthentic" accounts from Iran that were part of a vast manipulation campaign operating in more than 20 countries, AFP reported.

The media machine of Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) "follows the same modus operandi of lying and falsifying the facts" as Iran's media machine, said Fadel al-Hindi, a supervisor at King Abdulaziz University's Centre for Human and Social Research.

The way an April incident in Sanaa's Saawan district was covered in pro-Houthi media "is the clearest evidence" of this deception, he told Al-Mashareq.

Pro-Houthi media claimed a US or Arab coalition airstrike had killed 15 children in the district. But a Human Rights Watch investigation into the incident, published May 9th, confirmed the blast was not caused by an airstrike.

"A Houthi-controlled warehouse that stored volatile material near homes and schools caught fire and detonated in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on April 7th, 2019, causing the deaths of at least 15 children," HRW said.

Spreading 'inflammatory rhetoric'

Another example of the Houthis' attempts to distort the news is their accusation of the Arab coalition in late 2018 of blocking the departure of a plane carrying a Houthi delegation to take part in peace talks in Geneva, al-Hindi said.

The Houthis aimed to "suggest that the coalition is the side that is refusing peace, which was later revealed to be false", he said.

The Houthis also are "broadcasting inflammatory rhetoric and fake news through a network of online sites and satellite channels", al-Hindi said.

These include the popular al-Masirah channel, in addition to al-Sahat, al-Yemen al-Yawm, al-Hawiya and al-Lahtha, he said.

According to political analyst Waddah al-Jalil, "the Houthis see in the experience of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a suitable model for dealing with their surrounding environment".

Pointing to the Saawan incident and others like it, he told Al-Mashareq the Iran-backed militia "commits the crimes and then pins these crimes on its foes".

"The Houthis are accustomed to not facing culpability or blame for the crimes they commit against Yemenis, and if they are held culpable they could not care less," he said.

"They behave like a gang that does not comply with international norms and laws and does not care about the consequences of its crimes," he added.

'False news and media fabrications'

Yemeni journalist Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq the Houthis have established a pattern of "broadcasting false news and media fabrications, through which they pin the blame for their crimes on other parties".

These falsehoods are not questioned or disputed by the Houthis' supporters, he said, and provide them the ammunition with which "to defend them to other parties, and so the rumour circulates quickly".

"The militia also uses this course of action to talk about its fake victories as part of its mobilisation of its supporters and the community through the official and unofficial media and on social media," Ahmed said.

According to Ahmed, the Houthis "are fighting the truth, as evidenced by their shutdown of all media platforms, newspapers and websites in the [areas under their control] except those that work for them".

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| 2019-06-15

The media must be sincere and constructive. What we have seen from your news are fabrications, fake news and prejudice, as if you’re working with another country other than Yemen. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Yemen have been killed at the hands of occupiers and invaders, and instead of siding with your homeland and its people, who are the majority, you side with a few who have allied with enemies for a bunch of filthy money. The free media, although it has to report what others say, it has to be patriotic and takes sides with its homeland as a principle like all other media professionals in other countries. Have you seen the media operating against its own country in the West or in the East like you do now?!! You won’t find anyone like you in taking sides with countries that have killed, destroyed and torn your country apart. What should we call you?! Treacherous agents, mercenaries, devoid of humanity and links to religion, blood and language?! You’re just the arms of invaders. If you think you’ve succeeded, you’ll be exposed. God willing, you’ll receive the relevant reward for what you’ve done. Yemen will remain free and strong, and neither you nor your financiers will be able to bend it. Long live Yemen! Death to traitors who are the arms of invaders!