Activists protest Information Ministry’s behavior [Archives:2007/1048/Front Page]

May 7 2007

Saddam Al-Ashmori
SANA'A, May 6 ) Representatives of civil community organizations, politicians, women leaders, journalists, lawmakers and students staged a sit-in Saturday at the Ministry of Information in solidarity with Women Journalists Without Chains because the ministry has refused to grant the organization a license to issue a newspaper.

WJWC Chairwoman Tawakul Karman believes the Ministry of Information's behavior aims to restrict press freedom and violates the Yemeni Constitution, which grants citizens the right to own media outlets. Additionally, she pointed out that ministry officials are prolonging or suspending issuing many licenses.

In a statement released Sunday, the Yemeni Teachers Syndicate described the Ministry of Information's decision as “strange,” as well as a setback to government officials' pledges to encourage press freedom and media plurality.

Veteran politician Mohammed Qahtan, a member of Islah Party's higher authority, who participated in the protest, declared in a statement to the WJWC that, “The ministry's passive attitude toward the sit-in is a negative indicator about the regime. It implies that the regime communicates to citizens that it responds only to uncivilized acts,” adding that this is a dangerous indicator.

Qahtan commented that imposing restrictions on free press is part of the ruler's mood, which has been manifested in the way he treats people. According to him, the matter requires all Yemenis to engage in peaceful revolution against those who seek to control their liberty.

The opposition leader noted that Yemenis were the first in the region to revolt for the sake of acquiring their rights and freedoms, and they sacrificed themselves for these things.

Joint Meeting Parties official spokesman Mohammed Al-Sabri also participated in the sit-in. He clarified that what took place on Saturday [reflects protestors' absolute rejection of any restrictions imposed on press freedom. Al-Sabri demanded the Ministry of Information lift the chains it has imposed on media freedom and respond to the protestors' demands.

“Today, we came to this place to express solidarity with the WJWC to claim its constitutional and legal rights, which the Ministry of Information is denying,” Member of Parliament Fouad Dehaba said in a statement to the WJWC. “We don't expect the ministry to behave this way, as such conveys a bad impression about Yemen's regime.”

Addressing his organization, teachers syndicate President Ahmad Al-Rabahi said, “As teachers, we protest and show our rejection of the government's policy, which poses obstacles and barriers to journalists and media institutions and restricts press freedom,” noting that the syndicate wants the Yemeni government to change its policy.

Al-Rabahi further announced his support for the WJWC in order for the group to obtain a license to issue a newspaper in its name.

Journalist Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani opined that the Ministry of Information ban represents official fear of the ability of effective media to disclose corruption and illegal practices. “The government wants mouths shut so corrupt officials can do what they like,” he asserted.

Al-Khaiwani said the Yemeni regime depends mainly on the ministries of defense, information and finance in exercising its unwise policies, which means it is able to exploit the tank, the microphone and the funds to exercise its policies.