Multi-million-dollar advertising money has long been suspected as an unspoken filter for Western news media coverage. If the news conflicts with advertising interests then it is simply dropped.
Western complicity in Yemen’s conflict is a case study. Add to that the celebrity sheen of Hollywood stars Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman. What we then have is an illustration of how ugly realities of killing and war crimes are cosmetically air brushed from public awareness.
Let’s take three major Western media outlets — BBC, CNN, France 24. All are notable for their dearth of news coverage on the bloody conflict in Yemen. On any given day over the past nine months, these channels have rarely given any reports on the daily violence in the Arabian Peninsula country.
Yemen is heading into peace talks in Geneva this week, so there might follow some desultory reports on the said channels. But over the past nine months when the country was being pummelled in an appalling onslaught by foreign powers, the same channels gave negligible reportage.
It also turns out — not coincidently — that major advertisers on these same news channels include Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines and Etihad. The latter two advertisers feature screen celebrities Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman, posing as satisfied customers of these Gulf state-owned companies.
Other prominent advertisers on BBC, CNN and France 24 are Turkish Airlines and Business Friendly Bahrain.
This advertising complex has, undoubtedly, a direct bearing on why the three mentioned Western news channels do not give any meaningful coverage of the disturbing events in Yemen.
Notwithstanding there is much that deserves telling about Yemen — if your purpose was journalism and public information.
The poorest country in the Arab region is being bombed by a coalition of states that include the US, Britain and Saudi Arabia, as well as a handful of other Persian Gulf oil-rich kingdoms. The latter include Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Thousands of Yemeni civilians — women and children — have been killed in air strikes by warplanes from this foreign military coalition, which claims to have intervened in Yemen to reinstall a regime headed up by a discredited president who was forced into exile in March this year by a popular uprising. The uprising was led by the Yemeni national army allied with guerrilla known as the Houthis.
Out of Yemen’s 24 million population, nearly half are in dire humanitarian conditions from lack of food, water and medicine, according to the United Nations. The suffering is aggravated by a sea and air blockade of Yemen by the Western-Arab military coalition.
Due to Western involvement in a humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen, one might think that Western media would be at least giving some coverage. Well, not if you watch BBC, CNN or France 24.
Moreover, there are reliable reports that ground forces fighting against the Houthi rebels and the Yemeni national army are comprised of Western mercenaries — in addition to troops from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.
According to Lebanon’s Al Manar news outlet, foreign mercenaries killed so far in Yemen include French, British and Australian, as well as Colombian and others from Latin America. They have been enlisted by the notorious US-based private security firm, Blackwater, also known as Academi.
The mercenaries are first sent to the United Arab Emirates for training before dispatch to Yemen, reported the New York Times.
What’s more — and this is explosive from a journalistic point of view — the mercenaries being sent to Yemen also comprise Islamist brigades aligned with the self-styled Islamic State (IS) terror network out of Syria. This has been confirmed by senior Yemeni army sources and several Arab region news outlets, such as Yemen’s Masirah TV and Lebanon’s Al Akhbar newspaper.
In Syria, the IS terror group and other jihadist brigades are suspected of being deployed covertly by a US-led coalition for the purpose of regime change against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The US-led coalition includes Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. Illicit oil smuggling is one stream of income to fund the terror brigades, as Russian intelligence has uncovered.
Washington and its allies claim to be bombing Syria to “degrade and defeat” IS, in the words of President Barack Obama. But, according to the Syrian and Russian militaries, the Western-led coalition is not serious in its stated aims. Indeed, on the contrary, evidence points to the US-led bombing of Syria as being inordinately ineffectual compared with the parallel Russian aerial campaign against the terror groups.
The conclusion is that the West’s “ineffectiveness” in defeating IS is a deliberate policy because IS is actually a covert regime-change asset in Syria.
That conclusion is consistent with how IS and other jihadist mercenaries are being relocated out of Syria to take up military assignment in Yemen in a configuration that sees Washington and London provide air power, along with warplanes from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states; and the same Arab states providing on-the-ground US-trained mercenaries in addition to their own regular armies.
The IS terror brigades are thus integrated with the Western-Arab coalition fighting in Yemen.
According to Brigadier General Ali Mayhoub, of the Syrian Arab Army, hundreds of jihadist mercenaries have been secretly flown out of Syria to Yemen onboard civilian airliners belonging to Turkish Airlines, Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways.
The IS-affiliated mercenaries were flown into Yemen’s southern port city of Aden at the end of October, about three weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian fighter jets to begin their blistering anti-terror operations in Syria.
It seems more than a coincidence that major commercial companies belonging to Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are lucrative sources of advertising revenue for the three Western news channels, BBC, CNN and France 24. Actresses Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman leverage the advertising budget stakes by multiple millions of dollars.
The companies belong to countries — all or partially state-owned — that are involved in sponsoring military campaigns in Yemen and Syria. The more overt military intervention in Yemen has seen a catalogue of war crimes, including the bombing of civilian centres with cluster bombs, such as hospitals and schools.
Amnesty International last week documented “war crimes” carried out by the aerial bombing coalition attacking Yemen, comprising the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states.
Yet, scarcely any of these gross violations committed in Yemen by the Western-Arab coalition and their connections to terrorist groups in Syria are covered by the three major Western news channels, BBC, CNN and France 24.
Patently, the censorship is correlated with specific sources of commercial advertising income, which is over-riding the Western public interest in knowing what is really going on in Yemen and how their governments are involved in violations of international law, including state-sponsored terrorism.
Ironically, the same Western channels never stop blowing trumpets to their “consumers” of how courageous and ethical they are in “bringing you the stories”. Evidently, as far as Yemen is concerned, the “journalistic commitment” is determined not by truth and much more by advertising money flowing from states complicit in war crimes.
Western news media’s self-declarations of “independence” and “integrity” are like the celebrity adverts that sponsor them. Cosmetic and illusory.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.