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Cablegate: Latest Front in Sa'ada War: Youtube

VZCZCXRO5994
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHYN #1680/01 2581410
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151410Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2775
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 001680

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FOR NEA/ARP, NEA/PPD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PINS PROP PGOV KPAO YM
SUBJECT: LATEST FRONT IN SA'ADA WAR: YOUTUBE

SUMMARY


1. In the sixth war between the ROYG and Houthi rebels, the
fighting has spread to a new front: Youtube. Houthis and
their supporters have posted video clips online as part of a
vigorous information campaign to publicize battlefield
victories, allege ROYG atrocities against civilians and
accuse Saudi Arabia of direct military involvement in the
conflict. The ROYG has responded with its own videos from
Sa'ada, showing civilians condemning the Houthis and
describing them as "murderous brigands." Although
propagandistic and difficult to verify, this video footage is
drawing attention in the context of an information vacuum on
the Sa'ada conflict, created by independent local and
international media's lack of access to the conflict zone and
official media's lack of credibility in reporting on the
fighting. Internet penetration in Yemen remains extremely
low, but satellite television stations and newspapers have
begun using these web videos as sources in their reports on
Sa'ada, thus extending the videos' reach far beyond Youtube.
END SUMMARY.

HOUTHIS TAKE THE BATTLE ONLINE


2. Houthi rebels have made web-based video content a central
part of their information arsenal in the sixth Sa'ada war.
Their media operation revolves around the website al-Minbar,
a relatively sophisticated "news" clearinghouse of videos,
stories and official statements from Houthi leaders. The
videos have migrated to Youtube, mostly via the Youtube
channel SadahOnline, self-described as "the truth the way it
is in reality. Facts and scenes from the Sa'ada war, far
from the propaganda and misinformation."

3. Many videos focus on Houthi military victories. A
September 12 video compiles footage of seized and burnt-out
ROYG military vehicles with Houthi military training
sessions, while a narrator urges Houthis and their supporters
to attack the enemy and promises them victory. A September 6
video juxtaposes scenes filmed through the crosshairs of
Houthi weapons with scenes of ROYG military vehicles bursting
into flames. An August 31 video shows a room crowded with
shoeless uniformed men, allegedly ROYG soldiers captured by
Houthi forces. Individual soldiers then denounce the regime
and apologize for "the heinous crimes that the authorities
have committed against the women, children, and people of
Sa'ada," including shelling the homes and farms of civilians.

4. A September 7 video shows explosives allegedly seized
from retreating ROYG forces in Malahiidh that are emblazoned
with Saudi markings. (Note: ROYG sources later claimed that
these weapons were remnants of Saudi military support for the
royalists during Yemen's 1962-70 civil war. End Note.) The
narrator says, "This is the kind of assistance that Saudi
Arabia provides to the Yemeni people. We wonder if tools of
killing and destruction were recommended by Allah among
brothers."

ROYG: WE TUBE TOO


5. The ROYG, via official media, has fired back with its own
videos from the conflict zone. Almost every day during the
Ramadan "prime time" evening hours immediately following
iftar when many Yemenis are watching television, official
Yemen TV has aired interviews with civilians in Sa'ada
condemning the Houthis and describing the death and
destruction that the Houthis have inflicted on their
villages. (Note: According to media contacts, local sheikhs
are pressuring Sa'ada civilians to participate in these
interviews. However, the civilians' stories are believed to
be mostly genuine. End Note.) This video footage has
migrated to the website of Ministry of Defense mouthpiece 26
September and also to Youtube. Much of the footage is on the
Youtube channel of al-Motamar, the mouthpiece of the ruling
General People's Congress. It ranges from President Saleh's
August 19 speech in Sana'a vowing to put "the final nail in
the coffin" of the Houthis, to Sa'ada civilians showing pots
and pans from their kitchens riddled with Houthi bullets. A
September 4 video shows a Sa'ada civilian listing the names
of family members killed in the fighting; the reporter asks,
"And who killed them?" eliciting the response, "The Houthis."
Other civilians state that the Houthis closed down schools,
forced children to fight on their side, and "beat people
until their skin withered away and their bodies were awash
with blood."

TRADITIONAL MEDIA TAKES THE BAIT


SANAA 00001680 002 OF 002

6. Internet penetration in Yemen remains extremely low; there
are only an estimated 300,000 internet users, representing
roughly 1.5 percent of the population. Few of the Youtube
videos have more than 3,000 views and a dozen comments.
However, international and independent local media -- barred
by the ROYG from traveling to the conflict zone -- have
picked up the videos and used them as sources in their
reporting. Al-Jazeera, Hizballah-affiliated al-Manar, and
Iranian al-Alam TV stations have broadcast the Houthis' clips
of captured ROYG tanks and military vehicles, as well as the
clips of the alleged Saudi weapons; independent Yemeni media
outlets al-Masdar, al-Tagheer, News Yemen and Mareb Press
have also reported on the content of the Houthi videos and
linked to them on their websites.

COMMENT


7. Most of the amateur video footage emerging from the Sa'ada
conflict is propagandistic and difficult to verify. It does
little to shed new light on a conflict zone from which
credible journalists have been almost entirely excluded.
However, it does point to the increasingly sophisticated
future of information warfare, even in this remote region
where electricity and telecommunications services are scarce.
END COMMENT.
SECHE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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