A proposal to siphon advertising revenueFree press targeted [Archives:2003/688/Front Page]

November 24 2003

A proposed law that would take a cut of profits from Yemen's newspapers, apparently money to help protection of journalists from harassment, has outraged editors across the country.
Editors of most nongovernmental newspapers have signed a petition calling for the disapproval of the draft law presented by the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) and approved by the Prime Minister and Shura Council.
The proposal, which seeks to deduct per cent of advertisement returns for the YJS, will be debated by parliament after Eid.
The editors believe the idea constitutes a major setback in the encouragement of a free press in Yemen, and that it will create more stress on the newspaper industry, which is already under a tremendous burden.

Petition to Parliament
In a petition, the editors note that, “instead of helping boost our income and help sustain and develop the local press institutions, this step aims at weakening them further, and could potentially even cause their collapse.”
“We call upon the parliament members to not approve this item in the law, which unjustly takes away deserved income from newspapers without their approval We have expected steps to assist the media in providing more sources of income, not taking away deserved income.”
“This cannot be tolerated. It is more like imposing nationalization on us like used to be in the past.” said Hisham ba Sharaheel, the Editor-in-Chief of the country's most widely read nongovernmental paper, Al-Ayyam.
“We have raised a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to stop this draft from becoming law in the parliament, because it constitutes a direct violation of the universal declaration of human rights signed by the government, and also comes against the spirit of the Yemeni constitution, which guarantees the rights of property ownerships of all citizens.”

Where will the money go?
Some of the editors believe that the draft is a step to create new unlawful income to the YJS on the expense of an already struggling nongovernmental media. The YJS says the money will go to efforts to forbid the detention or harassment of journalists.
“The law does not state clearly that arresting journalists is forbidden. All it says in item (4) of article (7) is that it promotes “holding on to the principle of not arresting or detention of any member journalist for issues related to freedom of the press and practicing his occupation based on the law
“This, first of all, doesn't mean at all that journalists will not be subject to those acts because it is only talking about 'holding on to the principle of' and not 'preventing',” journalist Seif Al-Haderi said.
“This item is not only useless, but it also says that only syndicate members should be protected, while other journalists may not. Furthermore, it also says 'practicing his duties based on the law,' but that means detention can still take place with the justification given that he did not practice his duties based on the law according to the authorities. Who defines what the phrase 'based on the law' means?” he asked.

Targeting the nongovernmental press
Hameed Shuhra, Editor-in-Chief of Annas, said that this item is targeting nongovernmental newspapers because advertisements are their main, and in many ways, the only source of income.
“The issue makes very little difference for the governmental and other financed media institutions because they have their own governmental sources of income. But for the rest of us, taking away such a percentage from the overall earnings from advertisements will be devastating, because we can barely pay salaries and expenses at the end of every month.” he told The Yemen Times.
The editors said they would express their appeal to President Saleh and work tirelessly to stop this law from being passed because it would be a major backslide in our country's reputation in terms of supporting democracy and freedom of expression. “Other countries dedicate more money to nongovernmental newspapers and try to find ways to finance them through giving them government advertisements.”
What is aimed through this law is simply the contrary. Such a law would create more obstacles and financial difficulties for the nongovernmental media, and this is unacceptable.” Walid Al-Saqqaf, Editor-in-Chief of Yemen Times said.
“We shall definitely appeal to the president to stop this law from going through.” he pledged.