Al-Wahdawi Suspended for one month and Jamal Amer sentenced to stop writing forever The Press Continues to Face Hassles [Archives:2000/09/Front Page]

February 28 2000

A sentence was passed last Tuesday February 22, 2000 against Al-Wahdawi newspaper and the journalist Jamal Amer ordering closure of the newspaper for a month and forbidding the journalist to writing for ever. Besides, he has been ordered to pay a fine of YR 5,000. 
In a report issued by the People’s Nasserite Unionist Party and Al-Wahdawi newspaper (the Mouthpiece of the Party) it was mentioned that the sentence passed against the newspaper is a dark spot in the Yemeni judiciary system and that it will not be the last one against freedom of expression and press as long as the Ministry of Information adheres to its outrageous policy of suppression and plays the role of the policeman throttling freedom of expression. 
The PNUP and the newspaper condemn and denounce any sentence passed by courts or government that limits freedom of the expression. They also request all the political parties, mass organizations, and the organizations supporting rights and freedoms to stand by the newspaper which has committed itself to the pursue its mission of defending its press rights. 
Al-Wahdawi newspaper has published an opinion article by Mr. Jamal Amer in which he has dealt with the current boarders crisis between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. This has been viewed as a slander for the Saudi leaders and very much damaging to the public interests. 
Jamal Amer and the editor in chief of Al-Wahdawi Abdul Aziz Sultan was kept under investigation for two consecutive months in the Print and Publication Prosecution which has referred the case to a court. The referred court kept the matter for some time putting off passing the verdict for four times. In the fifth time the verdict was finally passed with this aggressive content. 
Security Forces in Ibb governorate have already attacked Mr. Jamal Amer at his house after two days of publication of the article and jailed him in the Central Prison in obedience to orders by the Interior Minister Hussain Mohammed Arab who used to take interest personally through the telephone to know about the incitors and the sources of information. 
The newspaper has filed an official appeal against the verdict on the very next day of passing the verdict, i.e. 23\2\2000. 
On the other hand, a number of press organizations and those interested in human rights including the Reporters Sans Frontiers and the Federation of Arab Journalists urged the Present Ali Abdullah Saleh to use his constitutional right and stop this aggressive verdict. They have noted that this verdict directly threatens freedom of the press and creates an atmosphere of fear among journalists. The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate in an appeal report to the President of the Republic noted that this heavy punishment does not have any legal sanction and is out of proportion and contrary to the principle of freedom of expression in accordance with the relevant laws, especially the Print and Publication Law that governs the journalism activity. 
These verdicts and court terms will be presented before the international organizations, especially those interested in freedom of the press, the syndicate added. This case along with other cases will also be included in these organizations’ annual and regular reports and circulars which are to be found in all the press media and communication space channels all over the world. 
The syndicate has requested the President Ali Abdullah Saleh in his capacity as the chairman of the Supreme Court Council, to interfere to stop implementing this sentence to protect the image of Yemen in the eyes of the world and to prove the credibility of the government to uphold the democratic system that is based upon plurality and freedom of the press. 
The PNUP that publishes Al-Wahdawi newspaper has viewed this verdict as politically motivated. Besides, there is some relationship between the verdict passed and the pressure exerted by the Saudi side on Yemen culminating in this verdict, some sources doubted. A number of journalists are organizing a sit-in in front of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate to exercise pressure on the court so that the official appeal presented by the newspaper would be accepted, sources told Yemen Times. 
Mr. Abdul Aziz Sultan, editor in chief of Al-Wahdawi newspaper, told Yemen Times “The verdict was not at all anticipated and that it was a clear-cut signal of the state of corruption prevailing in the judiciary system in our country. The verdict was politically motivated despite the existence of the Printing and Publication Law which was set aside when dealing with our case. I believe that there is no law that prohibits a journalist from writing in any other part of the world. 
Moreover, the article published is not more than an opinion article and is not a news item so that it can be said to be true or false. This verdict negatively affects the democratic transition in the country. We are sorry to say this especially as we are entering a new millennium, for we should have overcome such pitfalls long time ago. To face the verdict made against the newspaper, we have presented an official appeal and we hold out hopes that we will find some judges who will be highly aware of the credibility attached to their jobs. 
We highly appreciate all the press and space channels that have responded positively and constituted a strong pressure-force that denounced this aggressive verdict. There are some other means that can be followed to convey our ideas to the public in accordance with the prevalent laws. It is our mission which we will never give up.”Jamal Amer said in a statement to Yemen Times “The verdict was a complete shock for me and it was a real insult to the democratic system and Yemen’s reputation. It is absolutely groundless and is not at all reasonable. He who follows up the sessions will never fail to notice the confusion of the prosecution in determining the reason behind the case.””I am really proud of all that support by journalists, the official press and the opposition. I also appreciate the sympathy and support I have received from the first secretary at the Dutch embassy in Sana’a.” he added. 
At another level, the Deputy Minister of Information, Mr. Mohammed Radman Al-Zurqah to Al-Thawra Daily yesterday that the containt of thee sentence against Mr. Amer was totally misunderstood by the media people. He explained that the court’s punishment to Amer to stop the profession of journalism was something additional which is specified in Article No. 106 in the Law No. 25 of 1990 for Press and Publication Law with maximum one year. 
Mr. Mr Al-Zurqah illustrated that the substance of the verdict is very clear if it is well-read.