General observations on new journalism draft lawLaw of press and publication (Part 1) [Archives:2005/854/Opinion]

June 27 2005

By Abdulbari Al-Tahir
Before tackling this matter, it is necessary to point out that the Yemeni constitution, “the unity constitution ” stipulates the compliance with the united nation's Charter, International Human Rights Declaration, the Arab league, and the General Bases of Accredited International Charters. In spite of all amendment of the constitution, this article remained, and became article 6, in September 1994 constitution

The unity constitution, that is amended in 1994- guarantees “the citizens in the Republic of Yemen, in no contradiction with the law- to organize themselves, politically in syndicates and professionally.”

It is to be noticed that the article remained as it is, a thing that indicates that the constitution has given this right without need to submit ion or codification; article 42 (every citizen has the right to participate in the political, economical, social and cultural life. The State guarantees the right for freedom of thinking, expression and photography within the law.”

It is obvious that the Yemeni State is internationally bound to model its laws in accordance with the declarations it is signatory to. In case of contradiction, between the two legislations, the general will predominate. It is internationally known now that, there is no need for the press or parties, to abide by obtaining license for newspapers / magazines or parties. It is queer that the State is insistent on issuing press law, and impose penal procedures against free opinion and expression, besides legislations like that of penal procedures, penal law, documents law, a mater that subjects the journalists to more than one punishment. There is even a legislation that demands death penalty for the journalist

First: Chapter One

In definition of who is the journalist, the draft adds to the right definition in law (25) of 1990, the expression, and diffuse media information on private sites and electronic webs

The Human Rights Ministry noticed that this addition contradicts article (53) of the constitution, which offers liberty as a divine right for the individual.

In fact there is an international definition of a journalist, which needs no addition or omission

The Ministry has -no doubt- noticed that it hasn't got the ability to make a sponsorship on the communication activity, which is truly the third international revolution, besides it is internationally prohibited to sponsor post and communications. It is also stated in the Yemeni law and constitution. It is the security mentality that direct the censorship. The draft contradicts the Constitution and the international Human Rights declaration by imposing sponsorship.

The draft has said that, the journalist is the member of the Syndicate, making the membership of the syndicate a term in renewing or defining the journalist. This makes syndicate membership compulsory, which is unconstitutional. Syndicate membership is optional, and you can't force a journalist to be a member of a syndicate that he doesn't like. It is also not in the least logical to prohibit a journalist from practicing his job or to extort him through the syndicate membership. This is what our qualified colleague Nabiel Al-Mohemady wittingly noticed. One also adds that there is confusion in membership and registration

The syndicate membership is not compulsory all over the world. What is really compulsory is the availability of the definition and the technical terms, this means that, a lawyer, a doctor or a journalist for instance should be registered in the list of his relevant syndicate. He only registers to have the license, then it is up to him to join it or not.

The mistake of the draft is that it didn't stipulate the professionalism and the way of earning a living. These are major bases for journalism definition. They are internationally known. They should principally be in the definition. If they are added to or omitted, especially in a country like Yemen they would cancel the definition and open the door for those who are strangers to the career. Our problem in the syndicate is that, this definition is not precisely applied.

The draft has an inclination to preferring a number of the old article 25 of 90 definitions,which were indefinite and unspecific. One of its defects is its definition of the printing press.

One also criticize the insistence of the Ministry on sponsoring the internet and the private sites, a thing that is impossible, even if Yemen is an advanced country in that respect .It really reveals a mentality of tyranny and hostile spirit. This is in addition to its contradiction with the constitution, laws and the international declaration of Human Rights

The draft is also noticed to differentiate between the definitions and the general principals cleverly in a number of positions distributed over the different chapter.

The new draft has inserted many restrictions on the definitions and the general principals. In defining the journalism for example it asserts “Journalism is independent, freely carrying out its message in serving and mobilizing the community, and expressing its trends with all methods to defend the right, justice and the country”

To be continued next issue