Government and the Press Should Be One Team [Archives:2001/37/Viewpoint]

September 10 2001

Eleven years have passed since Yemen started adopting democracy and freedom of press. Those eleven years included various ups and downs. There were many obstacles hindering the progress of Yemen’s democratization process, and there were a lot of flaws and shortcomings in our country’s democratic experience.
As we look back in time, we realize that we did accomplish something. Newspapers continue to express their opinions and publish reports and news items critical of the government. At the same time, the government is tolerant and understanding of the fact that any environment where the freedom of press is granted would have such articles.
However, there seems to be a mishandling of the relations between the government and opposition and independent newspapers. The government continues to think that many of those newspapers aim at embarrassing the government and focusing on its wrongdoing. Some governmental officials take it even further by thinking that those newspapers are their enemies and should be dealt like enemies.
Let me clear one thing at this point. There may be some newspapers that bluntly and unjustly attack certain figures without strong basis. I do not support those newspapers, and even condemn them as they are turning the honorable task of delivering the truth to the evil task of insulting others.
However, one can also not deny that most newspapers are constructive in their criticism and do show a sense of responsibility. I believe that those newspapers deserve respect and cooperation.
I am asking through this column all governmental officials to put aside any hatred or envy towards those newspapers and try to make good use of their articles. Ministers could potentially benefit largely from articles that reveal mishandling of affairs relating to their ministries. For example, the Minister of Health benefited a lot from Yemen Times when we revealed the corruption that was eating away one of the public hospitals in Aden. He acted swiftly and expressed his appreciation to the newspaper’s stance.
This responsible action of the newspaper should have even a more responsible response from the government. The authorities should read those articles and act to correct what is wrong within their domain.
I think that opposition and independent newspapers are definitely more beneficial for our officials than governmental newspapers because they point out the problems so the ministers could fix them. Governmental newspapers usually praise the government and ignore criticizing it. By this, they are not benefiting the government, but rather putting it in an illusion that has nothing to do with what is on the ground.
In brief, the government and the press should be one team and cooperate to have the country develop rather than become enemies.
We should work together for the sake of the country and never against each other.