Exploiting disputes in the YJSGovernment suggests amendments to press law [Archives:2005/881/Front Page]

September 29 2005

SANA'A- Sept. 28- The Amendments to the Press Law were objected to strongly by journalists, as well as the committee the government has formed to study the project of the amendments on the Press and Publications Law issued in 1990. The objection led several ministers to withdraw from the committee in protest against certain woefully inadequate stipulations.

The government then forwarded the draft law to the Shura Council to discuss it and then present it the Parliament to approve it without consulting the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, which has just prepared a complete version of the law.

The referral of the law amendments project to al-Shura Council faced harsh criticism and stirred sharp controversy among journalists, including Hafiz al-Bukari, Secretary General of the YJS who said: “the government wants a press law that can adopt its policies, and this is why the government hastened procedures for approving the press draft law.”

Al-Bukari considered the government's decision to refer the draft law to the Shura Council a pre-planned intent to marginalize the role of journalists and ignore the demands of the syndicate to have a discussion of the draft law before hand.

Sami Ghalib, Editor-in-Chief of al-Nida and a member of the YJS confirmed to the Yemen Times that the draft law never cancels the penalty of imprisonment for publication issues and does make the YJS membership mandatory for all pressmen. This fact was emphasized by the Human Rights Minister, Amatalalim al-Soswa at a symposium three weeks ago.

According to Ghalib, the draft law grants the executive the power to take any measures against journalism and never addresses the rising demands for the multiplicity of visual and audible media.

On his part, Yemeni Prime Minister Abdulqader Bajammal confirmed the outcomes reached by the ministerial committee chaired by the Minister of Justice were referred to the Shura Council, showing his readiness to have a discussion once again with the YJS on the matter.

The YJS immediately has welcomed what has been contained in Bajammal's statements but showed doubt over his meeting with some of its members. Sa'eed Thabit, A YJS official said he requested PM five months ago to set together and discuss the project but he excused himself several times from attending any meeting.

The government exploited the current disputes in the YJS to pass the law, which journalists consider will restrict freedoms. Although some of its articles cancelled the penalty of imprisonment, it embraces other articles stipulating different punishments and fines on journalists.

Opening a symposium on the role of press in raising judicial awareness, Minster of Justice, Adnan al-jefri who chairs the committee mentioned the draft law due to be forwarded to the Shura Council took into consideration the rights and duties of journalists according to the regulations of the code of ethics.

The old press law contained various advantages for journalists, particularly as it was issued immediately after establishing the national unity when there was a balance between all the political forces and parties.

The deteriorating situation of journalists and journalism instigated the Center of Training and Press Freedoms Protection (CTPFP) to release a report showing a terrible increase in the rate of physical attacks on journalists.

The 2005's rate of attacks and harassments against journalists and writers of opinion surpasses by 90% the figures of 2004.

The preliminary figures of the CTPFP's report on the situation of the jou4rnlaistic rights and freedoms during the first two thirds of 2005 show terrible indicators. The center also scored a similar increase in the cases of threats, trials and interrogations of journalists. According to the report, 98 cases of different violations, attacks and harassments against journalists had been witnessed in Yemen over the last few months.

In less than eight months, over 79 journalists and opinion writers were summoned to appear before court to be interrogated and investigated for what they had written. The victims included 72 publishers and chief and managing editors of independent, party-affiliated, opposition and state-run newspapers.

The report stated: “The al-Thawri opposition newspaper scored the highest numbers of interrogations, trials and other legal actions sued against it. Presently, its editor-in-chief is being tried along with a number of reporters over publishing 13 articles on different issues, one of them allegedly included humiliation against the Statesman. 4 lawsuits are filed against al-Wahdawi opposition newspaper and the same number of cases is sued against al-Nihar independent paper.

“Other independent papers, among them al-Wasat, al-Asima, al-Rased, al-Lewa, al-Sharq, al-Haq, al-Bilad, Saut al-Shura and al-Fursan are being quizzed,” the report said. “The security authorities shut down in the middle of last June the head-office of al-Ibhar independent paper, suspended any printing of it and fined one of its reporters.”

The report added that in the final days of last August, the editor of the al-Usbou weekly was suspended under a court verdict from pursuing work for two months, and therefore he was prevented from appealing against the verdict.