May 3 – World Press Freedom Day Little to Celebrate [Archives:2001/19/Viewpoint]

May 7 2001

When asked about World Press Freedom Day observed on May 3 many newspapers in the world responded, “We have little to celebrate” The reason obviously is that most developing countries continue to restrict the press in many ways. Hundreds of journalists are harassed, prosecuted, tortured, and even killed. We indeed have little to celebrate, but much to worry about and work to achieve.
Here in Yemen, the situation is still not bright. At a time the press expects more freedom, more flexibility, more tolerance, and more understanding, all it gets is warnings and condemnation.
I was personally saddened with what H.E. President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s statements on Saturday. He advised the press that “the press must respect itself!” and used other phrases that hurt the dignity and respectability of the press and others concerned.
There may be some newspapers that have exceeded the the limits and have become a means for propaganda for specific groups. Yet, there are tens of other newspapers that have been judiciously objective in their approach, honest in their stands and work toward bringing out the facts. It is unfair to accuse all newspapers of a bias or a wrong perspective. The press might not be perfect. As a matter of fact, it may sometimes be totally wrong. Yet, generalizing the warnings or condemnations to target all newspapers is certainly disconcerting. This would in all likelihood cause more desperation and frustration to journalists, who expected encouragement and moral support on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
Journalism is truly the task full of hazards. Everywhere a journalist goes, and anything he does could be a source of political threat to his personal security and sometimes to his life. The task of delivering and reporting the events as they happen has never been easy job. Yet it becomes even more difficult when the authorities try to hinder, or demoralize the press.
“We have little to lose, we have low wages and are accustomed to being harassed by the authorities almost everywhere and everyday,” said one of the journalists.
Despite the fact that the freedom of speech and expression have expanded noticeably in Yemen since the blessed unification, there is still much to do.
The misery and sufferings of journalists can never end. They are subjected to continual threat and discomfort. But if there is one thing that makes a journalist feel satisfied, then that is unravelling the truth in all aspects and hence rendering service to the community as a whole.
Mr. President, we need your support and encouragement. You have been the upholder of democracy and the freedom of the press, and we expect you to continue your mission. The press needs you more than ever before. Stand by them and support their cause of seeking and delivering the truth for the people of Yemen and the world. We are not all the same. So please don’t prejudge us all in the same way. There are certainly honest, sincere, and frank journalists everywhere in the country, and they deserve your support!