The Independent (UK): Only some revolutions will be televised

By Jody McIntyre

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Another ‘million person march’ happened in an Arab state earlier this week.  Headline news, you might think. At least on Al Jazeera?  Whilst the media continue to focus exclusively on events in Libya, the huge march in the south of Yemen was ignored.

The Qatari-based news channel has played an intriguing role throughout the recent wave of revolutions across northern Africa and western Asia.  By “choosing” one uprising at a time to focus on, it has led the gaze of the public, begging the question, would a revolution on the Egyptian model have ever succeeded without the media attention Al Jazeera provides?

On the other side of the coin, these new media sources, and the Internet in particular, have allowed us to follow these uprisings in a way that would never have been possible in the past.  The BBC no longer can no longer monopolise our opinions; the corporate media no longer have complete control over which information we do and do not recieve.  By viewing Twitter feeds which are updated on a minute-by-minute basis, we are seeing events as they happen, not as they are reported.

Ali Saleh, the President of Yemen, has responded to continued demonstrations by offering a new constitution within a year.  Like his proposal to step down in 2013, Saleh seems to still not appreciate the fact that when you have been in power for 32 years, you do not get the privilege of choosing how many more years you can remain in power.  His offers to pass rule from the hands of the President, i.e. himself, into the hands of parliament, and to decentralise power, may seem well-meaning in principle, but they are too little, too late.

What will be most interesting is how events develop from here.  It clear that Western governments have begun to appreciate the ferocity and speed of the domino effect Tunisia initiated, with the French government attempting to cover up its long-time support of Ben Ali by recognising the opposition in Benghazi, the US government asking it’s human-rights-loving Saudi allies to arm the Libyan opposition, and David Cameron travelling to Cairo accompanied by BAE Systems representatives, desperately looking for another puppet leader to sell weapons to.  The co-opting process is in full-swing.

Saleh’s speeches whilst his people are up in arms serve a similar purpose.  They are an attempt to divide the opposition, and to weaken the revolution.  A million people in the streets of Yemen suggests the plan is failing.

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