A democracy in the making [Archives:2007/1076/Viewpoint]

August 13 2007

Five government institutions along with the names of their leaders have been announced lately in a freedom of speech violators black list. The list was created by a number of angry activities whose rights have been violated in more than one occasion and who decided not to compromise or negotiate. As a result of their enthusiasm, they have been beaten up, harassed in the yellow media, and accused of being traitors and causes of chaos.

Every Tuesday, activists gather in front of the cabinet in what they termed as “Freedom Square” and discussed several issues relating to freedom of press and human rights in Yemen. Recently they have been apposed by others celebrating the anniversary of president Saleh taking charge and clashes took place between the two parties when the celebrators beat up the activists who raised their pens in the air as a sign of peaceful protest.

Their number of protestors has varied according to the heat of the moment, and still they are assembling every week for the last two months without fail.

Last week, they came up with the black list in which they included national security, ministry of interior, political security, ministry of information, and military based media institution. They narrated the number of violations each institution has committed against freedom of press according to NGO reports.

In our poll last issue, we asked Yemen Times readers whether the activists were out of line to name such state institutions in a black list. More than 60 percent said no.

Despite the terrible situation Yemen is living in, in all aspects of life, I am sure this event means something positive and there is a sliver lining to the internal political situation.

If there were no democracy at all, the activists would not dare do what they are doing. Newspapers would not publish what they are publishing and such a struggle would not exist. But then again the same applies for the counter argument, because had there been no oppression there would not have been protest and violence.

When I saw the black list, I realised that Yemen is truly a democracy in the making. There are problems and violations but to be able to point fingers to ministers and heads of political security and accuse them in public of hindering freedoms is a big thing that should not go without credit.

To whom the credit goes, that is another question. It will depend on the reactions to the black list announcement. If the activists start disappearing or being beaten up or threatened one way or the other, then the credit goes to them, and they become freedom fighters in Yemen. But if the authorities let it go without doing something against those daring activists, then they become the heroes of the day. But in all cases, there are some red lines being crossed and boundaries being tested, in an attempt to make Yemen the free and democratic country it deserves to be.