Despite chaos Yemeni journalists innovate and use data to tell their stories

The First Data Journalism Network in Yemen

In spite of the devastating war that has been raging in Yemen for more than three years and the resulting destruction of what was already poor infrastructure – causing further power outages and slow internet- a group of Yemeni journalists, wanting to tell their stories in a compelling way, launched early 2018 the Yemeni Data Journalists Network.

The initiative aims to spread among the Yemeni public the culture of sharing open source information and to build the capacity of journalists on the use of data, online tools and resources.

The network comprises today of over 50 journalists, developer and activists spread across the country committed to the practice and development of data journalism.Women constitute 40% of the network.

Network coordinator, Mr. Mohammed Ismail “We want Yemeni journalists to be part of the wider global journalism community using, like their peers, the latest tools and technology to produce great content. To do so we are building their capacity in data journalism. We have organized online and face to face training to over 30 journalists in different governorates. We can already see the great achievements. We have produced dozens of data driven stories and infographics to convey our stories that are both inter-active and user friendly.”

Network Mentor, Hisham Allam, added “I was impressed by the eagerness of Yemeni journalists’ to embrace new tools and technologies. What we are doing is unprecedent. We are, in the middle of the war and extreme poverty, laying the foundation of modern innovative journalism.”

Abeer Wakid, a network member, says, “Yemen has been cut from the world for decades which means we didn’t have access to modern education and tools. Today I’m proud of being part of this Network. It gives me the opportunity to get involved in a new open and engaging kind of journalism breaking from what we used to do in the country”.

The difference is that Yemeni journalists face tremendous obstacles to inform the public on the situation in the country. Insecurity, threats, censorship, surveillance leading to self-censorship, poor infrastructure and lack of resource etc. are common practice in what is also a war on information. Mohammed Ismail “Adding to the political context, we can’t, like in most countries, just go online and find and collect data. There is little information on Yemen. Often, we have to create our own data by conducting ourselves research.”

The local Yemeni Data Journalism Network is the first of this kind in the region. It shows how much Yemeni journalists want to participate and can do well if they are given the chance. “If it’s a forgotten war, we journalists don’t want to be forgotten and are using all tools and format to break this circle and make Yemen voices heard”.