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Yemen: Ramadan TV: Laughing at Yemenis’ expense
Despite their many divisions, Yemenis are united in their rejection of Ramadan television programs that cast them in a negative light.
Of the more than 10 official, private, commercial, party, and sectarian-based satellite channels that have emerged in Sanaa since the revolution, each has its own agenda.
But none include addressing the Yemeni viewers' everyday concerns and issues.
Despite their huge budgets, allowing them to produce "respectable material," each channel seems to be preoccupied with promoting its own political views and sending messages to other political forces in the country.
Yemenis are particularly outraged by Wi Fi, a supposed satire aired on the Dubai-based MBC television station, because it portrays Yemenis as "stupid, ignorant terrorists."
Yemeni lawyers and activists announced their intention to file a lawsuit against the Saudi-owned MBC network for broadcasting the show, which portrays Yemenis as only caring about bombings, eating, and chewing qat (a mild stimulant plant widely used in Yemen).
The Yemeni defense ministry's website reported what it referred to as "overwhelming public discontent at the Saudi series that portrays Yemenis badly and with flagrant contempt."
It particularly drew attention to the sixth episode of Wi Fi, saying that it "tried to send the message that Yemen is the source of terrorism."
The report said that the series, comprising short satirical sketches, sparked widespread anger across Yemen against the channel, the producers of the series and the actors.
It added that the show is also "offensive to MBC itself, which is known as a discerning channel that enjoys widespread public following."
MBC chose not to respond to the Yemeni reactions to the program. But a source at the channel said that the series is about criticizing through comic sketches in order to stir controversy.
He described the series as a "meaningful comedy that makes sure it does not offend any one particular group."
The source said that the program "includes the best comedy stars in the Gulf," adding that "in our culture we do not like criticism."
Such an uproar over Yemeni stereotypes may seem surprising given that even local channels broadcast negative images of Yemenis.
For example, the third season of a TV series called Hammi Hammak (My Concern, Your Concern), aired on the Yemeni al-Saida channel, goes out of its way to show the Yemeni character as a chaotic idiot, dressed in rags, and always shouting.
Although it addresses highly significant social issues affecting people’s daily lives, the show portrays a scathing image of Yemeni character.
Worse yet are local quiz shows that agree on the principle of humiliating lower-income social groups.
Critics say that these local quiz shows focus on exploiting the needy for meager amounts of money. Their humiliation is the main objective of the shows.
There are other similar examples of contests aired live from the studio, where the public interacts through telephone calls with the presenters, addressing the participants in a very degrading manner.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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