Al-Humaty to YT Mr. President Supports the Freedom of Expression [Archives:2000/08/Law & Diplomacy]

January 21 2000

A Republican decree issued recently appointed Mr. Ahmed Nasser Al-Humaty as Information Undersecretary for broadcasting and television affairs and external information with a ministerial degree. 
Mr Al-Hhumaty is an eminent media personage with 30-year experience in the media field. He joined the radio station at the age of 17 during the rule of the Southern Arab Union. He was then youngest broadcaster in Yemen radio station. He is a cultured person and a poet whose poems are full of enthusiasm and passions. Many Yemeni singers have sung his poems. 
He worked as an advisor to the president for Media and Culture Affairs. His commitment and high efficiency in his job has qualified  him to occupy his new post at the Ministry of Information and as a spokesman for the ministry. 
Jamal Al-Awadi of Yemen Times has conducted an interview with him, discussing various  current topics of national interest mainly the border issue between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, whether there a possibility of imminent cabinet reshuffle in Yemen  besides many other social and  economic problems. 
Q: Shall we assume that your current post is similar to that of the States spokesman? 
A: A matter of fact, we are seeking to establish a special department that will be the source for official news issued by the government pertaining to any political, economic, or social issues. We will also make available all apparatuses needed for dispatching  and receiving news. This will spare local and foreign correspondents great deal difficulties for obtaining correct media information. We have been aware that there are some sources leaking unreliable and lacking of credibility news. Such news and information would consequently lead to spread of rumors and prospects. Establishment of this department would greatly limit this phenomenon and there would be a clear-cut dealing with an official official source for information. I will be personally in charge of this department. 
In this era of information revolution, we plan to have good contacts with international and Arab news agencies. Besides, this will open new channels for the media and cultural cooperation among countries as well as exchange expertise in this field. 
Q: How do you view Yemens media work under the globalization? 
A: Globalization has become a reality that we are aware of. As a  direct result of the revolution in telecommunications and the known economic effects the world has been changed into a small  global village. This should not make us embrace globalization  blindly, but rather be within it provided that we must conserve  our identity; our customs, conventions, and social norms. 
Q: Do you think that Qat is detrimental to our economy as it is to health? and do you think the presidents directives have played any role in curbing this  habit? 
A: First of all, I dont chew Qat. It is a habit that has been passed on by one generation to another. I believe that the major detriments of Qat are financial problems besides some health problems that it may cause. However, Qat is a lesser evil, compared to the other poisons and evil habits spreading all over the world. 
All in all, it is an uncivilized habit costing people fortunes which may be better used to improve their living conditions. Besides, if this money is spent on  development projects in the agricultural field, it may do a lot to revive the old happy days. Qat has spread over large areas of agricultural lands at the expense of other strategic plants such as wheat. It spreads rapidly mainly due to the handsome profits its growers get in return. Therefore, to eliminate  such a phenomenon, preliminary steps have to be taken for deep-rooted habits are often hard to break. 
The presidents directives to stop chewing Qat in military camps, and inside in official departments are good initiatives for a start  in our fight against Qat in the long run. Therefore, I believe that there is a good and essential role that can be played by the media. That is our job for the coming period. 
Q: Is there really a political struggle in that some tribes are seeking to have representation in the executive authority? 
A: There is nothing like that. Tribes are part of our society and our democracy  gives each individual the right to nominate himself to parliament or local councils. Besides, a good number of qualified persons belonging to different tribes are holding high and important positions in the government and are of the top brass. However, the point is that opposition newspapers may find some tribal feuds over a piece of land or as a result of revenge cases, a chance to smirch the security image of Yemen. In most cases what they report is just a package of lies. 
Thus, if there are some tribal feuds this does not at all mean that there are conflicts between the government and these tribes. Moreover, we try to overcome such problems and disputes by raising the awareness of people by making them take such disputes to court when such cases occur. 
Q: Rumor has it that there is reshuffle in the government? What is the truth of such news? 
A: Such news is not true for the government is making progressive strides in terms of implementing its programs. Besides, the president met with them last week to push address some of economic issues to develop the economic situation of the country. In short, this rumor is groundless. 
Q: Are there still some Arab Afghans in Yemen? 
A: Absolutely not. This is also another rumor that has been around aiming to create the idea that there is no stability and security in Yemen. However, there is nothing called terrorism in Yemen nor are there any terrorists. For the only incident in which there happened to be some killings, the security forces arrested the kidnappers, held them accountable for their actions and they received court terms. Besides, the government does not allow wanted people by any other neighboring or friendly countries to live in Yemen. 
The only terrorist activity that we came to encounter was that of Mostafa Hamzah who Lives in London. He sent some of his relatives to carry out some terrorist attacks in Yemen. Thus we suffered from terrorism as many other countries. All in all, the Yemeni people are peace-loving as well as hospitable by nature, hence what Mostafa Hamzah did is far from our traditions and conventions. 
Q: How do you assess the security condition in Yemen? 
A: The security conditions in Yemen are more stable than any other times. There is nothing that worries us except that some opposition newspapers try to make a mountain out of a molehill. For example, in New York acts of violence take place every minute and that is considered as something ordinary. However, if there is a fight or an accident happening here, you see that these newspapers raise hell and heaven. I do call any journalists to visit Yemen to see things in their real colors. Even reports about tribes were most of the time incorrect, for the tribe in its real meaning means supreme social values and ideals. If there is anyone who wants to praise someone he says He is Kabili meaning generous. The tribal customs are the origin of Arab qualities. 
Q: Do you think that there is some scope for the freedom of the press? 
A: We view freedom of the press as one of the essential and pivotal pillars of any democratic system. This is much distinct as the opposition newspapers enjoy complete freedom to publish whatever they want. Besides, any newspaper has the right to file a case if it finds that its rights have been breached. There are some journalists who filed cases against the Ministry of Information and the ministry responded positively to such cases and accepted the award passed by the court whatever it was. So none can deny the scope of freedom of the press that newspapers enjoy and was the background and the basis for holding the Emerging Democracies Forum in Sanaa in 1999. 
Q: Will you elaborate on the current situation of borders negotiations between Yemen and Saudi Arabia? 
A: Negotiations over the borders are in progress. The only new thing about them is that the president asked the committee to assign a specific period to end up the whole issue. However, reports in the media of exchanging charges negatively affect relations between the two countries. 
Q: Is there any future prospects for the TV and radio stations? 
A: Many programs and projects are conducted to develop the TV and radio programs so as to match the changes of the times and technology. All sources necessary for receiving and broadcasting information will also be available. In addition, there will also be some training courses for the technicians and specialists in the radio and TV stations. 
Q: What are the facilities that you offer in case there are any media delegations or representatives of news agencies? 
A: We welcome all the people of the media with open arms and from any country all over the world. Yemen is a hospitable country and is open to the world. We will also provide all the photos, video tapes, documents, etc, that are needed. We will try – to our best – to meet any demands that are required by the local as well as the international media departments. 
There is an open invitation to making reportages about Yemen and to come close to experience the democratic transition which the country is undergoing. Yemen has become an example in the region in terms of its democratic system. Besides the encouraging and positive conditions of human rights in Yemen which is also asserted by holding a workshop to raise the awareness of the social, economic and cultural rights organized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights which was attended by Mrs. Mary Robinson, commissioner of the UN. This was not the end of our goals for there is no limit for our ambitions. Some weeks ago a number of officials, diplomats, some international organizations joined together to discuss some important issues to the media. They also talked about the measures of cooperation in a way that will meet all the sides interests.