Defining democracy [Archives:2003/642/Viewpoint]

June 19 2003

Some ambiguity has overshadowed the long-known definition of democracy and freedom following the unfortunate September 11, 2001. Some went to the extent of accusing the USA of abusing the term “freedom” and defining it in the way that only suits its interests. However, an increasing number of people in the world, especially those involved in defending human rights and freedoms are concerned that the USA is actually infringing freedoms in the USA by applying tough security measures and using intelligence that could be somewhat violating people's privacy.
After all, thousands of Americans did participate in a petition that called for not abridging any of the freedoms guaranteed to Americans by the Bill of Rights.
Wasn't the USA the country that did what it did to the prisoners in Guantanamo, where clear examples of violations of freedom and human rights are carried out by the superpower of the world, which was supposed to protect human rights and human dignity?
Wasn't the US administration the one that requested the punishment of Al-Jazeera because of broadcasting Osama bin Laden's tapes and other similar issues?
Wasn't the USA the country that supported the Israeli mighty military force to carry out incredibly unprecedented massacres against the Palestinians and at the same time condemned the self-defense measures taken by militant Palestinians?
“Yes”, the USA is the judge and jury. It is the one that is defining democracy and freedom and the one violating its own definition.
Democracy is not a mere word that could be arranged as some wish. It has a permanent and clear definition that should apply to all people without any implementation of any double standards.
We understand that Arab regimes have become too weak to express their opinions clearly. But Arab citizens are disgusted with the way democracy is demonstrated by the USA.
We as media establishments in small developing countries have tried to adopt true democracy and freedom by allowing all people of different views to talk freely and express themselves without any restrictions. This is applied in Al-Jazeera satellite Channel, which sometimes brings Americans or Israelis speaking their minds openly, yet the channel is still seen as partial and non-democratic by many.
We, at the Yemen Times, also publish truly cruel letters attacking the newspaper and the common Arab opinion on world issues, but we still have them published uncensored and unedited.
With our limited resources we are trying to become democratic in the true sense and want to implement democracy in the right way.
However, years ago, we thought of taking the US democratic experience as an example. But frankly speaking, nowadays, we are hesitant to do so. Not because we don't believe in the US democratic principles, which I admire personally and know that most people do, but because we believe that the current US administration's definition of democracy makes it a bad example to follow.