Adel Al-Hasani, a Yemeni journalist, is helping foreign reporters cover the war in his country.
Yemen’s four-year war—between a Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels—is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to UN officials. Air strikes from the Saudi coalition have killed some 10,000 civilians, displaced 2 million, and have put nearly half the country’s 28 million people at risk of starvation.
It’s also a risky story to cover: Six Yemeni journalists have been killed since fighting broke out, and a Saudi military official said media outlets they deemed to be affiliated with the Houthis were legitimate targets, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Roads & Kingdoms recently spoke with Adel Al-Hasani, a Yemeni journalist and fixer about keeping journalists safe, the trouble with freelancers, and how his work affects his personal life.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Mann: Where are you from?
Al-Hasani: Originally I’m from Abyan, but I was born here in Aden.
Mann: Growing up, what was your life like?
Al-Hasani: It was a bit hard, actually, because of [our family’s] economic situation, but we survived. I managed to go to college. I went to the University of Aden and studied English literature.
Mann: How did you become a fixer?
Al-Hasani: I started being a local journalist in Aden and my friends and I started an [independent] news website called Aden Al Qhad in 2009-2010. Now we also have a newspaper, my name started to [appear in bylines], and I started to have contacts with people. Some people from Europe contacted some journalists here and asked them to find them a fixer or someone who speaks English.
Mann: Are you still publishing Aden Al Qhad?
Al-Hasani: I don’t write anymore. I stopped maybe a year ago because I don’t feel safe when I write now. Some people are not happy with what I’m writing. We cannot give our own opinion about what’s going on, it’s really risky to do that now.
The most important thing for us is to keep journalists safe and secure, and then their stories come next.
Mann: As a fixer, what do you do when you are working with a journalist?
Al-Hasani: The most important thing for us is to keep journalists safe and secure, and then their stories come next. We try as much as we can to [get] stories done for journalists. It’s not fixing only stories, but security, cars, and a lot, a lot, of phone calls.
Mann: What was your first job as a fixer?
Al-Hasani: I was working with Peter Salisbury. He works now for Chatham House [also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs], a think tank in England. It was after the war in 2015 that he came here with Vice News. It was my first contact with him. It was very hard because the stories were difficult and sensitive at the same time.
To be honest, sometimes it was very scary. We had to do some very sensitive interviews. The most interesting interview was with someone living somewhere in Aden, in a secret place, and I don’t think I would forget. He was a wanted man.
Mann: Why did you stop working with freelancers to only work for TV stations?
Al-Hasani: First, freelancers can sometimes cause you trouble. They write about anything and they don’t care about your safety. They don’t think about that the fact that you live here, and they are leaving the country in a while, and you have to cope with [the fallout]. Second, it’s [financially] not worth it. You’re just wasting a lot of time with someone, it’s not as much as you get when you work with [TV] channels.
Mann: What are some of the media outlets have you worked with?
Al-Hasani: BBC, Vice News, CNN, TV2, a Norwegian channel, France 24, Czech TV, RTL Germany, and TF1, a French channel.
Mann: Are you getting more work these days?
Al-Hasani: Yes, and I’m not only a fixer. Now I have my own team and I am working as a producer, sometimes a cameraman. It’s not only fixing, I think I’m growing a little bit. I have a very long list [of people] waiting to come to Yemen. My schedule is fully booked until March next year.
Mann: You said you have your own team now. Who is on the team?
Al-Hasani: I have my own security now and I have my assistant; sometimes he goes with the teams and supports them. Sometimes we work with two teams at the same time, so I choose the more difficult stories to work on, and I give my assistant simpler stories, and help him with things—how to fix stories, how he can work with journalists when they are filming. I think he’s doing well now.
Mann: What has made you better at your job in these past three years?
Al-Hasani: Contacts. I’ve made a lot of contacts.
Mann: How have you been able to do that?
Al-Hasani: I’m already a journalist, and a journalist always has his own contacts. While working with the BBC, we made contact with people until we reached the president himself and fixed an interview with him, which is very difficult to do these days.
Journalists cannot do those stories without me.
Mann: How does being a fixer affect your personal life?
Al-Hasani: I don’t have time to spend with my family. I have two kids, and they need me all the time. They’re still too young, five years old and three years old. They need to spend time with their father. Working as a fixer, you don’t have a moment to spend with your kids, you have to take care of a lot of stuff alone and organize many things at the same time. So you have no time to spend with your family. It’s the most difficult thing.
Mann: How do you deal with that?
Al-Hasani: I try to squeeze my time, to give some small tasks to my assistant and take my family outside somewhere for the day and try to make it up to them.
Mann: When you read or watch the work of the journalists, how do you feel?
Al-Hasani: I feel proud because no one can do that without me. You cannot do those stories without me.
Mann: Do you have anything else you would like to add about your work?
Al-Hasani: Yes. A few words to these selfish journalists who do not care about fixers’ security and fixers’ lives: Think about these fixers and think about their families. Think about their safety back home. You just do your story in one week, two weeks, and you go. They have to live with it forever in their country.