Yemen Times, the country's first and most widely-read independent English-language newspaper, has launched their new website yementimes.com and has begun to restore the largest online news database in Yemen.
Having experienced severe technical difficulties that threatened the newspaper's online existence for more than two years, the newspaper collaborated with open source software developers Sourcefabric to build an entirely new platform. After serious data loss involving the organisation's digital archive of news dating back to 1997, Yemen Times' struggle peaked in 2011 when their website was taken offline.
"This was especially heart breaking," said Yemen Times publisher and editor in chief Nadia al-Sakkaf. "2011 was a time when the world wanted to know more about Yemen with the Arab spring and the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaqi."
Despite the technical difficulties, al-Sakkaf, who has an MSc in Information Systems Management, and her organisation, which has reporters on the ground in Sana'a, Taiz, Aden and Hodeida, were vital in reporting on the political situation in the May 2011 leadership crisis in Yemen.
"We write news in a neutral and professional way. However the world did not know," said Nadia al-Sakkaf. "In a time of technology and web 3.0 if you are not online, you don't exist. Being online is not just having a functional website, it is also about traffic and how many people read your news."
It was shortly after this in 2011 that she approached Sourcefabric, a Czech organisation specialising in open source newsrooms. The two organisations worked together to use Sourcefabric's open source content management system (CMS) Newscoop to improve interdepartmental communication via the web, build a secure and stable platform that stayed online, restore and import the news archive, and make Yemen Times content more visible on the web.
"This new website is like a rescue boat," said al-Sakkaf. "Now we are at last visible, and can recover our old database manually."
Under al-Sakkaf, the Yemen Times has published several books such as Breaking the Stereotype, a book on Yemeni women's experience as political candidates in elections. Al-Sakkaf is also looking now to broadcast news via radio with firstly an online station using Sourcefabric's open source software Airtime, and eventually creating Yemen's first independent FM station - although, until now there has been no regulation or law for broadcast media.
In 2008 the Huffington Post's Magda Abu-Fadil said of al-Sakkaf, "her stride is fast, her energy seems boundless, she seeks reforms, she's bold, she's articulate, she's young, and she has her own newspaper in Yemen to use as a platform for action."
The Yemen Times is unified Yemen's first and most widely-read independent English-language newspaper. The paper is published twice-weekly (on Mondays and Thursdays) and has its own printing press,advertising associates and news service. It was founded in 1991 by Professor Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, a leading economist and human-rights activist, who was also its editor and publisher until he died in a traffic accident in 1999. The Yemen Times (www.yementimes.com) is among the strongest in influencing the government and in reflecting public opinion. It was the first Yemeni paper to go online in 1997.
Sourcefabric is established as a Czech non-profit organisation with its headquarters in Prague, branches in Berlin and Toronto, and representatives in Minsk, Guatemala, Warsaw, Belgrade and Cluj. It started life as CAMP in 1998, the new-media arm of the Media Development Loan Fund. In 2010 it launched as a wholly autonomous organisation securing private funding that propelled Sourcefabric into the ranks of one of the largest European open source projects for news and media. In 2011 they won a Knight-Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism for their work with the radio network West Africa Democracy Radio.
Nadia al-Sakkaf is the editor-in-chief of the Yemen Times, the most widely read English-language newspaper in Yemen. She was a speaker at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she spoke about the challenges of her job, especially as a woman, in the media and in the Arab world. Al-Sakkaf became the chief editor of the newspaper in March 2005, and has become a leading voice in Yemen and global media on issues of media, gender, development and politics. Ms. Al-Sakkaf was the first recipient of the Gebran Tueni Award in 2006, given by the World Association of Newspapers and An-Nahar Newspaper in Beirut.