500 violations against Yemeni press over four years [Archives:2007/1051/Front Page]

May 17 2007

SANA'A, May 16 – The Center for Training and Protecting Journalist Freedoms presented its 2006 annual report to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, brining back memories of the sufferings of journalists and newspapers from 2002 to 2005.

Concerning last year, the report presented by Mohammed Sadiq Al-Odaini, head of the center, indicated that, “2006 witnessed 200 violations and 47 incidents of intimidation against the press, including detentions, seizures and attempted kidnapping of journalists, opinion writers, local correspondents and journalists from foreign media outlets, as well as 33 instances of threat.”

During the same year, 22 verdicts were issued against the press, including fines, tough sanctions, dismissal from employment and banning from writing. The Socialist Party-affiliated Al-Thawri newspaper suffered the most violations, with six verdicts issued against it, its editor-in-chief and writers. Four of those verdicts were issued in the span of less than a month.

Additionally, its Editor-in-Chief Khalid Salman was subjected to a series of intimidating acts and likely will experience many more by Socialist Party leaders themselves because he wanted to report professionally and impartially even if against the party's best interest.

The report alleged that such acts of intimidation prompted Salman to seek political asylum in London, an unprecedented event in press history.

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Other verdicts were issued against journalists and private as well as partisan newspapers, such as Al-Wahdawi, Al-Nahar, Al-Nass and Al-Hurriyya. The year ended as trials continued against independent, and partisan newspapers such as Al-Wasat, Al-Thawri, Al-Nahar, Al-Wahdawi, Al-Shoura.net, Al-Shoura Voice and Al-Balagh.

Additionally, four newspapers were banned from publication during 2006, three of which (Al-Tajammu, Al-Usbu'a and Al-Hurriyya) were banned based on verdicts issued against them at the end of 2005. The fourth, opposition newspaper Al-Shoura Voice, was banned from publication and remains so.

The center noted that 2006 registered 20 individual and group cases kicked out of court, and thus, deprived of their rights. “Due to the deterioration of living standards in Yemen, dozens of journalists and workers at both government and party newspapers conducted a strike to protest their living and professional situations, requesting a salary increase and incentives, as well as fair financial allowances,” the report indicated.

The center also revealed that the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper tops those foreign newspapers banned from distribution in Yemen. Moreover, 13 cases of forbidding Yemeni electronic web sites and newspapers were registered, along with 14 cases of breaking into and closing down newspaper premises, as well as discriminatory treatment against the press at airports, 10 instances of insults and badmouthing, and two attempted murders.

In this regard, the center expressed its disappointment at “deliberate policies always seeking to make Yemeni journalists the victims of political conflicts and intrigues.

“Journalists often face betrayal campaigns that threaten their lives and personal security,” the center noted, adding, “They often are accused of being dangerous enemies of the state, the people, national security and principles.”

In its recommendations, the center demanded punishing those involved in aggression against and violation of journalists' freedoms and rights, as well as improving the occupational and social situation of journalists and media employees. Additionally, it recommended helping them perform their duties properly.

At the same time, the center called for those in the media to adhere to journalistic principles and commit themselves to credibility, as well as avoid involvement in citizens' personal affairs and any insulting remarks. It also emphasized adhering to a language of dialogue and objectivity when dealing with various issues.