Journalists continue sit-ins [Archives:2007/1071/Front Page]

July 23 2007
What doesnt kill you makes you stronger, journalists and activists come back again to freedom square after last weeks bashing, raising their pens high as a sign of peaceful resistance.
What doesnt kill you makes you stronger, journalists and activists come back again to freedom square after last weeks bashing, raising their pens high as a sign of peaceful resistance.
By: Saddam Al-Ashmouri
For Yemen Times

SANA'A, July 25 ) Journalists along with human rights activists and MPs held their 12th sit-in at Freedom Square, demanding the right to possess and utilize visual and audio media. Protesters found the surrounding area crowded with people amidst heightened security and decided to stage their sit-in outside Freedom Square in front of the media park next to the ministry.

The protesters began their sit-in lifting pens as an expression of the right of possessing the right word. Saleem Naji Alaw, representative for Yemen's National Organization for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (HOOD), stated “While I was taking photos of the protests last Wednesday, suddenly a group of people from fifteen to twenty persons started hitting me till I went comatose. I was taken to a hospital where I found myself full of [marks] due to hitting.”

Alaw added, “What happened last Wednesday is an outrageous violation of the law. It is also an indication of the authority failure and its shaking regime that is used to violate the citizens' security. It reveals the government lies along with its allegations that pretend to protect citizens. The authority intended to bring bullying people to hit the protesters who were demanding their rights. What they did will not scare us but double our insistence to claim freedom and our right to possess media means.”

Abdul Salam Al-Masouri, volunteer for Women Journalists Without Chains, was injured after he finished reciting verses of the Holy Qur'an at the commencement of the protest last Wednesday. “I was surprised to find myself amid a group of people with unpleasant shapes who seemed to be members of the National Security Body. They tried to drag me down to a car but I resisted. The protesters attempted to prevent them, so they started bashing us.”

Al-Masouri went on to say that what happened last Wednesday is evidence of government failure and bad treatment. “What we claim is stipulated in the constitution,” he affirmed, adding, “It is a pity to see the government bullying activities reach to the extent that they break the protesters' bones.”

Ahmed Al-Abdali, HOOD website cameraman, stated, “I did not expect and imagine what happened on Wednesday. They hit me and broke my digital camera, taking my cell phone from my pocket. I was injured in different places on my body. My most critical injury was on my shoulder.”

The presence of recently released journalist, Al-Khaiwani, was the surprise of the sit-in. He was received with strong applause and delivered a speech in which he thanked everybody for having solidarity with him. He also pointed out that the sit-ins are an alternative to violence in the community and reaffirmed that Freedom Square will be the springboard for achieving justice and rejecting all human rights violations.

Tawakul Kurman, chairwoman of Women Journalists Without Chains said, “Many state leaders, including the ruling party and prime minister, have presented suggestions and solutions that will ensure our constitutional and legal rights. Unfortunately they retuned empty-handed. Now you can decide who is responsible or who makes decisions regarding the detailed violations remarkably encroaching upon freedom of expression including depriving our organization from registering and blocking its news service.”

Kurman also affirmed the importance of fulfilling protesters' demands for the sake of freedom, commenting, “The ceiling of our demands has heightened to not only be limited to Without Chains newspaper and its mobile web service but also demanding freedom for all newspapers, channels and news services through mobile phones. We will continue demanding until they [enact] legislation that does not impose [restrictions] over electronic media, rejecting any new laws that restrict freedom of opinion and expression.”

Kurman demanded the president to execute his electoral program concerning freedom of expression, stating, “We demand the right of possessing audio-visual media for individuals, organizations and parties. The General People Congress should ensure this right as an execution of its electoral program too. We send our regards to the Joint Meeting Parties for their solidarity and [supportive] attitude, sticking up for freedom of opinion.” Kurman urged the JMP to continue their supportive role until all demands are met.