How Easy Is It to Contact a Minister? [Archives:2001/42/Focus]

October 15 2001

Hisham al-Qubati
I tried for more than 4 days to contact a minister or even to get his response. I phoned his office and told the man who replied that I wanted to arrange a meeting between the Minister and an American journalist who had come all the way from the United States to meet him. He was very friendly. He told me that it was not of his responsibility and provided me with two phone numbers in order to reach the people able to help me. By the end of the third day, the number of phone numbers reached 10, including different cell-phone numbers. I was still unable to get through to the minister or even receive a negative response. My friends kept telling me to give it up. “If you don’t know any of his relatives or close friends, don’t fancy to get his reply,” they told me. But, I went on trying, waiting for at least: ‘No, he is busy.”The new wind of change and its consequences make some officials more wanted by reporters thirsty for information on thoughts of what is going on regionally and internationally. Reporters come from the US or the United Kingdom looking for a chance to meet with such important people in order to come close to Yemen’s commitment to fight terrorism. Not all of them succeed in their mission. Some get bored of calling a lot of phone numbers and getting only more phone numbers. The few, who succeeded, were accompanied by a big number of people from the Ministry of Information wherever they went. A CNN reporter, commented “I think the Ministry of Information has the biggest number of employees.”Journalists here have always been complaining about officials screening news that is, most often, disclosed by foreign news agencies. Some officials say some news circulated internationally are misleading. I wonder then why they do not try to give the true news on time, before giving others a chance to use their wildest imagination.
Journalists have the right to get information from its sources. Their jobs should be facilitated instead of made difficult. And, after all, Journalists are not spies who should be dogged wherever they go.