General observations on new journalism draft lawLaw of press and publication (Part 2) [Archives:2005/855/Opinion]

June 30 2005

By Abdulbari Tahir
The draft here explains the obvious in an ambiguous way. More than that, it added restrictions that could be construed in different ways like, (defending the right, justice and the country). Many of the totalitarian regimes consider criticizing the rule or the ruler an aggression. We still remember Nimiry and Sadat's experience. Many of our Arab regimes consider the ruler to be the state and even consider religion, right and just to be the synonyms of the ruler, or even other names for the ruler. The Ministry, (which is celebrating Human Rights) sees to it that by this article, it paves the way for any judge to interpret any writing as against (the right, justice,..etc) This sort of articles add more constrictions to journalists' activities, and hold them accountable all the way.

In tackling the function of press, the draft denies its role by saying (It is a means of public supervision on the civic societies, through expressing opinion, criticism. It adds, publishing news and information within the Islamic faith and the constitutional bases. It also adds, the aims and principals of the revolution to deepen Yemeni unity. The draft proceeds adding that, with respect to basic constituents of the community and the rights of the others.

This draft mixes poison with sweet. It copies several restrictions from the restriction article, then distributes them all over other articles, the general principals and the definitions. This is of course to make the sponsorship dominant over each article. This exposes the mentality of the censor. There is a proverb that says Lwhatever is hidden in the heart is disclosed by the countenance or the slips of the tongue).What disclosures has our draft made?

The Human Rights Ministry had denounced these flagrant expression and demanded its withdrawal wherever it occurred. The Human Rights Ministry also demanded the elimination of public censorship on civic associations. The whole article is like a mine field, filled with restrictions. The constitution has guaranteed the rights and duties and it should be the final reference. The revolution principles should not be made a reference. They are elastic and can be construed in many different ways , because they were set in a time different from our present time. it would be an extra restriction to our present general principals. One finds it strange to add unity and the community principals. Criticizing the practices of the ruler could be interpreted as against unity, though it is a thing that is often happening. As for the criticism of the principals of the community, this is still more strange and hostile. The tribe for instance is the mother of the community, how could its criticism be a crime?

The article forces the press to defend bad traditions. It defines the press as free in carrying out its message. It asks it to respect the truth, and abstain to publish all that contradicts these principals of national responsibility and freedom. It also adds human rights and community values. It stipulates that it should not interfere with its activity outside the constitution and the law.

The phrasing here is very cunning. It introduces freedom (freedom of press) then it confiscates it, when it comes to details. one believes that the draft should respect the truth and leave all other things that undermine it. It is to be noticed that the restrictions in the draft come directly after “freedom ” for example, these rhetorical expressions “to abstain from publishing all that contradicts liberty, nation's values .what is the meaning of this nation's values? In Yemen for example, carrying arms is considered to be a sign of manly hood, when it is considered a crime in other countries. Saudi Arabia considers woman veil a sacred duty and the Kuwaiti parliament doesn't allow woman's right in nomination and elections. What is the right that the Yemeni journalism draft speaks of? The general rhetorical expressions like :national responsibility , community value, the basic elements of community; all these are ambushes to undermine liberty. To the draft as it seems, the liberty is the plant and the community values are the locusts

The comments of the Ministry of Human Rights has clearly indicated that, the expressions of principals of national responsibility and freedom, Human Rights and community values, are all tricky, vague and confusing. It warned that they should not be used without being specifically defined especially in the field of legislation.

This matter is not a matter of expressions, Such expressions turn into a guillotine at judiciary

General Principals

The draft provides that the press has the right to obtain the information from its sources, analyze circulate and publish them.

But the draft takes this right and insists on confiscating it by the expression, ” within the law” It also adds the other general expression “to keep the values and community morals”. These are general ambiguous expressions that surrounds itself with unlimited dangers

In article four it says “freedom of expression without limit”, what a nice expression! It is a right that is granted by all legislation however they are secular or religious. But the suspicious draft does not makes one enjoy it. It stipulates that it should be ” except that which is related to the security of the state, the community or the morals and values, as determined by the law'

Are the state , community morals and values, contradicting the liberty and free thinking ? It is obvious that these can not be protected without freedom. What is this t freedom of the draft that puts cuffs on hands, and how can a journalist know whether an article or a comment is against the state's security or not?

The expression “as determined by the law is a judiciary expression . that makes freedom a disputed matter.

The ministry has blamed the mystical expression that would have the potentiality of being construed differently by different people. It also criticized the usage of values and morals, because they have no fixed values as they differ from time to time and from a community to another.