Kissing Yemen’s press freedom goodbye [Archives:2005/805/Viewpoint]

January 6 2005

Yemen's press freedom has slipped again by the latest judicial court verdict against two journalists, the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Hurriya newspaper Abdulkareem Sabra and one of the newspaper's reporters Abdulqawi Al-Qubati. They both got two-year jail sentences with hard labor.

The world has watched Yemeni journalists work tirelessly to help free our colleague Abdulkareem Al-Khaiwani only to find another two journalists being imprisoned.

Journalists, intellectuals and diplomats are all asking where Yemen is heading.

Apart from the horrifyingly negative impact that this action has on Yemen's image globally, it effects our daily work as journalists, and destroys our hopes for improvements to press freedom.

It is also damaging Yemen's developmental efforts because the media is fundamental to increasing public awareness, which should be the driving force behind human development.

Police forces surrounded the house of Sabra, and treated him like a dangerous criminal. These kinds of incidents have been occurring regularly since President Saleh declared that he would delete the paragraph in the press law that deals with the imprisonment of journalists.

What is even more disappointing is that this comes a time when we thought that Abdulkareem Al-Khaiwani would be released. Journalists had argued that his imprisonment was unprecedented but now we see the same scenario being repeated, and on a larger scale.

Where is President Saleh in all of this?

Why does he not act and act swiftly to save the country's press from this injustice?

Or was all of this done with his consent, despite the fact that he was the person who pledged to protect journalists from imprisonment?

Did he change his mind?

If so, why?

I cannot hold myself from asking who could be next?

Could it be me?

Could it be one of the journalists that I know?

I hope that we can all wake up and see that there is something wrong and act quickly to do something about it.

It is a matter of life or death for the freedoms that we have worked so hard to gain and maintain. If we fail, we might as well close our newspapers and return home.

This could be the end of the democratic journey, and then we can kiss our press freedom good bye!