“Journalists get familiar to punishments” in press law [Archives:2005/836/Reportage]

April 25 2005
Su’ad al-Qadasi
Abdulraheem Mohsen
Abdulraheem Mohsen
Aidi al-Muneefi
Aidi al-Muneefi
Ra’afat Mudabesh
Hassan Al-Zaidi
More than 30 journalists representing various public, private, and parties' newspapers met in a course to train on how to avoid being asked by law officals, while performing their journalistic duties. This course came at the time the Journalistic Freedom Institution in Yemen reported in 2004 that 120 cases of dangerous violations and harassments to the journalists rights and their professional freedoms, and the freedom of expression in Yemen.

Those violations started with detention, hunting down, investigations, psychological and corporal attacks, sentencing some journalists to prison, and deprivations from practicing the profession. Besides, there were many cases of kidnapping journalists by police forces, as well as canceling licenses of independent private newspapers, stopping newspapers and unjustified sacking of view writers from public jobs.

Lawyer Yasser Abdulgawad, Egyptian expert of training in the course organized by Woman Forum for Researches and Training (WFRT) in collaboration with the Canadian Program for Self Efforts Development, taught journalists the legal items of prohibited publications in punishment law; it is what they preferred to call 'catastrophes'. They get familiar to the misinterpreted items that may make the journalist fall to the scope of being asked by law under the accusations of breaking the Press Law No. 25 for the year 1990.

Su'ad al-Qadasi, WFRT Director, said, ' since the government recently started trying journalists, we realized that journalists themselves are not aware of laws that limit their freedom. Therefore, it was necessary to have this course.'

The trainer, Yasser Abduljawad, said: 'it is very important to modify laws in order to show a wider opportunity for the journalist to be productive without being threatened. There are many warnings among the items of the Punishment and Press Laws that each journalist should deal with carefully.

The participants got familiar to these laws and they presented models of actual trials and essays that may put their writer in dock. They are absolutely influenced by the reality.

The representative of the Canadian Program for Self Efforts Development mentioned that 'the course is considered a contribution to qualifying journalists and raising their awareness about the law items. It is organized in collaboration with WFRT in the frame of supporting the Civil Society Organizations considering the journalists a means of developing this society.

Mr. Khalil Al-Buraihi from the Yemen Observer said, 'Press Law is flexible and obscure and it needs to be modified by experts of legal affairs especially those that deal with press issues. Law has given freedom in some aspects but it hasn't in others.'

Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani, a journalist, said: 'The journalists should struggle to cancel the idea of imprisonment of journalists. We do not want to exploit the law's shortcomings or to learn how to do so. On the contrary, we want to know how to deal with it properly as long as it meets our needs and the society's. Law should not be a hindrance to freedoms but it should stop the journalists' exaggerations. The newspapers should exceed the state of fear and sacredness given by law to some establishments that should respect the nation as well as constitution.'

Arwa Al-Sharjabi, a journalist, declared that 'the course unveiled the laws that try the journalistic act before all attended participants, especially when we see a lot of the publications issues that deal with expression freedom presented to courts. The course helped in familiarizing journalists in the legal and practical aspects especially the international agreements of expression freedom and publication. We knew the nature of the terms and expressions that prevent us not to break laws.'

Aidi Al-Manifi said: 'a number of laws issued in Yemen, including Press and Publications Law, confined the journalists' freedom. This matter makes us loudly call for modifying this law that has a bad reputation because of the imprisonment and detention it includes without being in proportion to what all people are looking for.

'Many official, journalistic and foreign institutions started to work on changing this law in order to go proportionally with the democratic margin all of us hope to enhance. What is happening is the contrary, we limit the democratic margin in front of the world.

'Press and Publication Law No. 25 for the year 1990 has flexible items and expressions that are always in favor of the state. Not only that, but the Punishment Law has also a number of such items. What the press law allows is not permitted by the Punishment Law. Thus, many laws should be reconsidered especially those that were exactly copied from the Egyptian Law in 1970s though Egyptian have changed theirs.'

Arafat Mudabesh said: 'generally speaking, Press and Punishments Laws which journalists are tried in their light include a number of items that confine press and journalists freedom should be reconsidered as soon as possible.'

Abdurahim Mihsen, stated that 'the course has a distinctive feature because it is related to limitations of the journalistic act. The course is very short and journalists need more and more.'

This is the way the journalists get familiar to the items Press Law and Punishment Law that they may be tried in their bases and how they got shocked accordingly. Anyway, they realized what limits their acts and they can avoid falling in such legal traps till issuing a law canceling the punishment of journalists and enhancing the journalistic freedom.