In memory of Samir Kassir, and others [Archives:2005/857/Viewpoint]

July 7 2005

The Editorial Board
Freedom of press in Yemen is rather portrayed quite negatively in the world. It is not a false accusation as it is true to a large extent that press freedom is violated in Yemen and in many other countries in the world. In fact reports indicate a decline in general freedom around the world and especially in the developing world.

In the case of Yemen, the negative publicity takes a larger dimension than the positive one especially with the lack of awareness and strategic thinking of the government. Many times the state attacks journalists or prosecutes them on baseless crimes without any consideration to what affects such actions might have on the reputation of this country and on Yemen's status globally. The World Press Trends 2005 issued by World Association of Newspapers (WAN) describes the various aspects of media in Yemen in various fields. For example a section is dedicated to newspaper launches and closures where it was mentioned the many closures of opposition and independent newspapers such as al-Shura, al-Neda and al-Hurriya among the many other direct violations against journalists. This is not a good image that we would like to convey to the world about Yemen. Such a negative picture only hurdles investment and political status of the country.

However, although Yemen is one of the countries going backwards in the matters of freedom, this is a common trend in the Arab world. Just last month on second of June – same day the death of Dr. Abdulaziz al-Sakkaf founder of the Yemen Times – Samir Kassir had been assassinated. Samir Kassir was a Lebanese teacher and journalist for the An Nahar newspaper. He taught at the University of Paris I: Pantheon-Sorbonne. He advocated democracy in Lebanon and was a noted critic of Syria's involvement in that country. He also advocated democracy in Syria. He was assassinated by unknown people using a car bomb and there is widespread speculation in Lebanon that Syrian security forces may have been involved in his death. The Syrian government has denied this.

According to WAN more than 500 journalists have been murdered in the past decade. In 8 cases out of 10, the killers walk free. Seventy-one journalists and other media workers were killed because of their professional activities in 2004, with 23 of them killed in Iraq, The toll was the highest for a single year since 1994, when 73 were killed.

While tens of journalists came to protest against the brutal murder of Samir Kassir held black pens in the air about three weeks ago in Lebanon. Many others remain fearful for their lives in case they write something that would hit on some powerful nerve. Only very few free journalist stay on the case in defense for freedoms and human rights. These journalists are the light for the future and although they are willing to die for their cause, their death will not go in vain, because there are others who will remember.