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RIYADH: Listeners reacted angrily after the Houthi militia in Yemen shut down one of Sanaa’s most popular radio stations amid a crackdown on independent media outlets in areas under their control. 

Yemeni activists and journalists, including Majili Al-Samadi, head of Voice of Yemen radio, said that armed Houthis raided Eram FM in the city and confiscated equipment, forcing the outlet off the air, and sparking indignation among the station’s loyal audience.

Eram, founded in 2015, has more than 100,000 Facebook followers and likes, and describes itself as “a social, entertainment, and artistic radio station with a focus on development.”

Al-Samadi said that the same Houthi authorities who closed his radio station early last year also ordered the raid on Eram, which is known for broadcasting songs by Yemeni musicians and other entertainment programs.

“Eram is a reputable radio station with a poetic and creative spirit that we have all enjoyed for the last eight years,” he said on X.  

In January last year, the Houthis shut down six radio stations, including Voice of Yemen, for refusing to air propaganda slogans, prompting outrage from local and international journalist unions. 

The Houthis have not officially commented on the latest raid, but Eram’s followers on social media claim that the station was shut down for breaching a militia guideline that forbids broadcasting songs or celebratory programs in sympathy with the people of Gaza.

“The jinn and humans are in solidarity with Gaza and forbid singing and celebrating New Year’s Eve, but Eram sings and defies the rules.” Mohammed Qadhi, a Houthi affiliate writer, said on X. 

Sanaa-based legal activist Abdul Wahab Qatran said that the militia want to seize control of remaining independent radio stations, and force the outlets to broadcast their anthems and messages.

“They have ruined everything wonderful in our nation, propagated one hue and one viewpoint, and tinted public life with their ideas, colors, and melodies,” Qatran said on his Facebook page.

Listeners who turned to Eram’s social media accounts to ask about the closure said that the station used to play Yemeni songs to entertain them while they went about their daily routines.

“As a fan of traditional music, Eram was my favorite station since it broadcast songs from the Yemeni singing heritage. I’m deeply disappointed that the radio no longer exists,” Hala Noman, a listener from Sanaa, told Arab News.

Since seizing power militarily in Yemen in late 2014, the Houthis have shut down dozens of TV and radio stations, as well as newspapers, detained and tried dozens of journalists, and forced many media figures to flee the country. 
 

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