General observations on new journalism draft lawLaw of press and publication (Part 3) [Archives:2005/856/Opinion]

July 4 2005

Section two

Financial censorship on newspapers, magazines and press institutions

This chapter contains three articles. The first article prohibits accepting contributions, aids, donations or any special merits, from any none Yemeni party for any purpose.

The prohibition is ofcourse unfair, because it deprives the press from an aid that is basically permissible. It is sure to hinder specialized magazines and newspapers like those of lawyers, journalists, engineers or doctors that have commitments towards Arab or foreign bodies. Their cultural or intellectual activities could cover many areas. This prohibition ignores the transparency and overt ness which should be the base of rights, for legal persons who have the right of the individual.

Section three

The Draft prohibits the circulation of any papers or publications if they don't contain certain things. It also stipulates for those who want to deal in press to have a prior written warrant from the ministry. This contradicts the spirit of the law and reflects a desire to demonate the commercial, cultural, and liberty of creative works.

Section four

The Draft binds the paper's owner to publish any reply but the right thing is to tackle the debatable matters with transparency. The Draft obligates the chief editor to publish the government authority and Ministry's bulletins, communiques of the Ministry without pay.

The Draft here confuses the partisan papers for the independent ones. If the draft means to give the right for replying, this one thinks has already been catered for in a separate article, but the problem is that the ministry is obsessed with pluralism and doesn't recognize independence of press.

In case a paper refuses a reply, The Draft gives the right to those whose replies are refused to appeal to the minister. The Minister has nothing to do with that according to the constituton.Here the draft treats the press as if it is part of the empire of the ministry.

Advertisement (chapter five)

The draft associates opening advertisement offices with written licenses, and compels the paper's owner to fix the prices, in coordination with the ministry, justifying this with price control . This is justification is worst than the article itself.

Fixing the price is the paper's affair. All he that is committed to is transparency. The Ministry's intrusion in that matter is suspicious.

The Draft state s that food advertisements should not be published without prior permissions. The logical thing is to indict the paper in case of violation and not to impose an article that makes the legislation overstep its jurisdiction. There are repeated articles in this chapter that contradict each other. Some give the Minister the right to issue regulations to obtain and cancel the license of work in advertisement advertisements, and to set the terms of attaining this license. One wonders, if these are the restrictions in the advertisement, what is to become of the commodities themselves?

Chapter six

This chapter is on press and publication houses.

This article relates starting a press with obtaining a license. It explains the procedures and the necessary terms that should be available. It sets several conditions for that. Among these are: – The owner is to be 25 year old – and not to be in charge of another press.

The Draft authorizes the minister to cancel the license. This reflects the spirit of domination in the Yemeni laws that undermine the investment freedom. Every formal institution has an inclination to have an upper hand on even the smaller details. It has the same mentality of the US towards the Iranian nuclear program. They want to know everything about the press and they look upon it as a threat that precautionary measures should be set upon, in order to curb it. One thinks this would only open the door for corruption. The Draft demands that the publisher should have a stamped file, from the ministry, that should be put at the beginning and the end of each publication to denote the number of pages, with the date of application, and the name of the press house. To the end of those numberless hindrances. It also prohibits the printing house to publish any paper without a valid license registered in the ministry. It holds the owner accountable for any publication.

Section eight

Publication houses

In this section, applying for a license is a common recipe between the writer, the owner of the press..etc. it starts with the name, birth and then stipulates a consultant body of experts in publication matters. It ends up with a warning from violation of the law. It is clear that the violations are the corner stone through out this draft. It adds here another term that gives the minister the right to issue additional terms for the control of the issuance of the license as if the above constrictions are not enough.

The draft prohibits defaming or any other slanderous harm to the president. It also prohibits the defaming of the kings, presidents or chief editors of friendly countries. The danger is not in Defaming the president and the other heads of states, but it lies in the interpretations of what is thought to be a slander. One still remembers the sufferings of press for publishing criticism of the regimes. Any criticism is construed as a slander.

Section seven contains transitional terms with several prohibitions, speaking of disclosing the State's documents, security and military secrets. It is a good thing that the draft speaks of the prohibition of insisting violence, but what are the dimensions of those instigations? What is the guarantee that they will not be an excuse to protect corruption, and prevent the exposer of tyranny?

The draft prohibits censorship except in exceptional cases. Yemen has been living in extraordinary case for a long time now. This term will pave the way for continuous censorship. The provisional terms are concluded with a number of prohibitions; like the observance of the honor and the ethics of the profession, in addition to many confusing indefinite principals that will do nothing more than wronging the press freedom.

The draft did not cancel the prison penalty, but mentioned the prevention of indefinite detention-( chapter eight, publication liabilities, in section one).

It cancelled jailing those who hinder the journalists' work. They are only to be fined.(article two)

The draft gives the court the right to close down the paper/ magazine, the press establishment or translation offices “or the likes' if they are opened without the amentioned license. It is to be noted that the law itself is contradicting the constitution and human rights declarations, that Yemen is signatory to.

While the journalist is jailed, those who obstruct his work are only fined.

The paper is to be charged with twice the amount of any contribution it accepts. The fine is to be deposited in the syndicate's fund.

The court is authorized to suspend practicing journalism, dealing in or circulating publications for not more than six months. The penalty is not restricted to a certain violation, which makes it a complimentary penalty, left for the judge discretion.

The draft calls for special courts. That is a dangerous issue. The call should be for independent judiciary. Lawyers have been striving for a long time to cancel special courts. The special judge is formerly chosen through the intervention of the security.TheYemeni constitution prohibits special and extraordinary courts; In chapter 148.It also contradicts Human Rights declarations.

The Human Rights Ministry refused the draft's article that contain the financial constrictions on the chairman or the capital of the paper, be it on individual or an institution, and asserted that the government should not go so far in imposing unnecessary restrictions like those financial restrictions, which are needless in this law. It went on saying that, the establishment that can not meet its requirements will vanish away gradually.

The Ministry also demanded the liability of the chief editor because he/ she can not know all the details of all that is published, besides he/ she can't be liable for that he / she didn't commit. This is what the elite lawyer Nabiel Al- mohamedi revealed in his elite comments.

The Human Rights Ministry has also pointed to the secret sessions of courts. According to it, it is difficult to know what happens inside these sessions unless it is revealed by those concerned in these types of sessions. This won't give the defendant a good chance to refute false allegations. The Ministry also sees the mater of closing down the papers, institutions or translation offices, as a collective punishment that will hurt other people. Lawyer Nabiel al-mohamedi also noticed that the draft adds more constrictions to those already found in law (25) of 1990,with constitutional jurisdictions for the minister and his Ministry. It is also badly phrased with overlapping repeated articles. The Ministry leaders boast of their clever law in that it doesn't mention restrictions, but the truth is that these restrictions are dispersed all over its articles, even in the definitions, principals and the conclusion.

It is remarkable in chapter seven (provisional terms) that it imposes censorship on papers /magazines in case of war or emergency. This article depends on the former Arab Republic constitution of Yemen of 1971, which was repeated again in May 1990 constitution. It was again cancelled in September 1994 constitution.

Another issue of concern is the exposition of the news recourse which is an important press principal. It was mentioned in article four chapter two (the journalist should not disclose his news recourses).The draft mentioned again in article two ( rights and obligations ) of journalists in which it said ( the journalist has the right not to reveal his recourse) and should not be forced to expose his recourses. There is an exception in the case of a court decision that necessitates the discloser. In article three, of chapter three of arrangements of ownership, the Minster has the right to ban the distribution of any paper if its contents are contradictory to the law. Here the minister will be the judge and the prosecutor. The second article gives the chief editor the right of appeal, but foreign editors will not be inclined to indict in Yemeni courts. This will victimize the reader and deny him the right of follow up.

The draft holds the owner of the press accountable for an unlawful publication; this will make a censor out of the publisher. It is against press freedom, and imposes censorship on persons outside the press career.

The term of article three stipulates the consultant body of experts for the publication institutions. This no doubt repels investment in this sector.

Article three of chapter seven (provisional terms) which prohibits the publication and circulation of all that will harm the country's higher interests of the documents and secret information, and the discloser of the secrets of defense. This sort of articles makes an intelligence officer out of the journalist.