Dedicated to the late Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf: Media freedom is a must [Archives:2007/1065/Opinion]

July 5 2007

Fuad Musa'ed Dhaifullah
People have to work very hard if they decide to take their rights from their oppressive rulers, who insist to remain on thrones. People have to continue struggling until all the community members are able to enjoy their legal rights. Otherwise, their struggle will be meaningless, be emptied from its real value and deviate from its specific objectives and sought goals. It will be merely useless speeches and essays composed at the time of nervous reactions.

The situation requires the group of people, who dedicate themselves to fighting injustice and resisting oppression, to concentrate on directing efforts toward a clear goal. It is important to work harder in this struggle because the ruling regime bets on weakening the community's memory, and makes it unable to recollect events, and hence to learn from the mistakes of the past.

As the ruler manages to seduce our memories from recollecting facts, it has become very easy for him to divide and rule by causing internal conflicts at various levels and in more than one issue. There are several forms of official violations against citizens who are supposed to be protected from any arbitrary practices in any democratic country. Other basic human rights have been abused in the country thereby causing a shock on the part of people who dream of living in a new Yemen moving toward a better future.

The veteran politician and academic Mohammed Al-Dhahiri, who is a Professor of Political Sciences at Sana' a University, was shocked when seeing his name including in the list of people prevented from traveling abroad at the Sana'a International Airport. Asking the airport officials why he is included in the list, their answer was that he belongs to Al-Dhale' governorate, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh had the less number of votes, compared to other governorates, in the most recent presidential elections. Then the professor published an article in Al-Nass weekly newspaper saying, “We need Yemen to be a safe state and not a state of heightened security.” Other personalities included in the list of people whom the government prevented from traveling abroad, said the same.

Inaugurating another series of human right abuses and the continued violations of laws and constitutions, as well as the international press conventions, which Yemen committed itself to abide by, the authorities suspended many newspapers and blocked news websites. Once, I asked the jailed journalist before he was arrested about his newspaper 'Al-Shoura Weekly and its website', surprisingly his answer was: “Which Shoura do you mean? The suspended, the confiscated or the kidnapped, I have not remembered how many Shouras suffered violations and arbitrary practices while the journalist didn't bear in mind that he will be one of the kidnapped victims once again, nor did he know that he will be thrown in prison on charge of attempting to put poison in the water tanks of the army.

Correspondent of Al-Sahwa weekly in Al-Dhale' governorate, Ali Al-Jaradi, was taken to prison on suspicion of having links with Al-Houthi followers. Al-Jaradi shouted, “Who rules Yemen?” And, before him, the prominent women journalist Tawakul Karaman said, “What a kind of regime do we have in Yemen?” In addition, before such events, a group of officers and mercenaries had been besieging the house of the well-known writer and activist Mohammed Al-Maqaleh.

But, what does matter here is our emphasis that the media must play a vital role in adopting any social issues and tackling them without any conducts that have no meaning. There should be neither chains nor restrictions that hinder media efforts from reaching possible solutions to any persistent issues in the Yemeni society.

We should concentrate on various issues that have been neglected for a single a reason, which is allegedly 'the absence of a real media role to deal with such issues. But, these issues have been popularized and they found sincere people, who adopt and back them, thanks to the effective presence of media means. Remorsefully, the media mission in Yemen is simply represented by a limited number of newspapers and news websites with modest equipment and facilities. The situation necessitates those concerned to expend hard efforts to ensure the civil community its legal right to own visual and auditory media to voice public concerns and expectations in various areas. Now, I think that we are in an urgent need for gathering viewpoints and directing them toward claiming the basic rights of Yemenis, and the advocacy should continued without any pause.

In case free media means exist in Yemen, it will be easy for the media to disclose and expose the aspects of fraud, fabrication and cheat. It will be easy for the media to identify weaknesses and shortcomings. The free media will able to expose corrupt officials who waste the nation's wealth and resources and embezzle public money.

What we need is escalate our advocacy for free media to convey to people what happens in their country. We insist on lifting any chains and restrictions on press freedom while sincere efforts are required for the sake of the type of media that address issues of the Yemeni society without any fabricated facts or incorrect stories that mislead the public.

Last month, we commemorated the passage of 8 years following loss of the late Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, who led a life of struggle for the sake of making Yemen 'A good citizen in the world'. This was his slogan during his short but productive journey in life. As the newspaper humbly marked the passage of 8 years of the loss of its founder, the elder son of the deceased media pioneer congratulated the Yemeni pressmen after launching an electronic website, the first of its kind, concerned with the issues of Yemen and Yemenis. It is difficult for the pirates to block or harm this website. In the meantime, hundreds of the Late Al-Saqqaf's students had been advocating a Yemen of free press and a country free of corruption flu.