Building vs destroying [Archives:2004/706/Viewpoint]

January 26 2004

I was harshly criticized a few days ago by a number of readers and friends for publishing positively about the recent international conference here in Sana'a, “Inter-Governmental Regional Conference on Human Rights, Democracy and the International Criminal Court.”
I was told that by publishing reports, I was promoting the government and looking for some gain.
With all due respect to those who think otherwise, the conference did need coverage and support. Looking at the governments efforts in promoting democracy and human rights through such events, one can only express appreciation. I always say that building confidence and encouragement is easier than destruction.
Some newspapers blasted the conference even before it started. They called it “a mere propaganda to help the government hide its violations”. Those newspapers may have their secret sources that they rely on in bringing forward such claims. But for us at The Yemen Times, we feel obliged to cover the event assuming good intentions of the government and organizers. This is the way it should be for all similar events governments have.
Furthermore, it is much easier to attack and criticize while it is more difficult to seek means to construct and encourage, especially in a time many newspapers tend to bring sensational news to the forefront on the expense of constructive and professional journalism.
What I mean to say here is that regardless of whether the conference was mere propaganda or not, we must not issue prejudiced conclusions in a time we want the government to continue reform packages for more democracy and human rights.
There are a thousand ways to criticize and attack others, but there are limited ways to build and construct in a proper manner. In other words, I believe that along with constructive criticism in showing certain negativities that may occur here and there, it is important to present constructive and well-schemed ideas that could help improve our lives and values whether in partnership with the government or not.
In fact, we can put our government in the test of we encourage them to do such conferences, and follow them with action. We can serve as a watchdog to see how committed the government is to its pledges and promises by looking into its future actions and steps.
One example was the way we exposed the pledge to liberating the electronic media from governmental control, which was clearly stated in the Sana'a Declaration issued following the conference.
This in itself is a good way to have a more influential role because we will be somewhat more accountable in presenting issues. The press reports the declaration and reminds of pledges of the government to adopt. The press also monitors the government's actions and reports of any progress or unwillingness in implementing the declaration.
Hence, as can be clearly seen, the government will be able to gain if it actually implements the declaration as the press will report their implementation.
On the other hand, if the government fails to deliver its promises, it will be a set-back and a confirmation that the original conference was only propaganda.
This is how the press can also strengthen its credibility and become a real watchdog, feared by the government, more than those newspapers that may have lost their credibility for attacking the government with no justification.