Mr. President says the truth: Journalism is deceived [Archives:2008/1165/Opinion]

June 19 2008

By: Faisal Al-Sofi
Journalism has become a fourth authority, thus exercising real powers along with the legislature, executive and judicature, pondered upon as the three essentially available authorities in any state. As a fourth authority, journalism has turned to be a must, as well as widely recognized by government officials in countries that are not included in the list of emerging democracy states.

Consequently, no need to worry about the situation of press freedom in the states of mature or emerging democracies, or even in states that don't recognize democracy. Any violations or restrictions practiced by government officials or social dignitaries on press freedom in any state have become assessable and modifiable while journalism is more able to assert itself and limit any restrictions and violations targeting the journalistic career if journalists resist any illegal practices targeting them, abide by the relevant laws and remain committed to ethics of their career.

The difficult test is that “How should journalistic and political writers, and newspaper owners develop their career, which is targeted by irresponsible individuals?” Here, I mean those who deceive the journalistic career, as they never abide by its principles, ethics and responsibilities.

These individuals are responsible for harming reputation of journalism as a noble career. They are the source or cause of the currently recorded violations against expression of opinion and press freedom in Yemen.

Wool Street Journal is an American newspaper that publishes around 30 errata, responses or corrections, while in Yemen a weekly or daily is found to publish up to ten corrections per issue, and this includes errata, responses, notices and apologies for mistakes and deceptive acts made in a pervious issue.

Anyway, these corrections, errata, responses and apologies published by private and opposition newspapers – and sometimes state-run and ruling party-affiliated papers – protect these papers from being exposed to criminal accountability and questioning. Otherwise, the number of victims against who lawsuits are filed to the relevant prosecutions and courts may be many times larger than the current number of the same kind of victims.

I reiterate that a professional journalist, a writer with a noble message in his community, and a disciplined newspaper, constitute the strongest coalition to win support of society members and convince them appreciate the noble message of journalism, as well as get influenced by it and back it by all means available or possible.

As long as journalists, writers, reporters and newspapers are committed to the illegal practice of the fourth authority, never accept cheating their career-related responsibility, confront those who try to cheat the journalistic responsibility or exploit the journalistic career for personal, domestic, partisan or fanatic purposes, their career and its reputation will survive unhurt for decades to come.

Mr. President has a say:

In one of his addresses, President Ali Abdullah Saleh clarified that there are various types of behavior attempting to cheat the journalistic responsibility and harm the career reputation for personal and partisan purposes.

According to Mr. President, journalists' irresponsible behavior and continual treason of their profession for a long time period helped at least generate the kind of experience among the readership with regard to how to differentiate between 'what is personal' and 'what is public', as well as between 'what is professional' and 'what is an exploitation of the profession'.

Journalists and writers should not be transcendent. They should avoid being deceived by their shrewdness and tricks or ignoring the witty readership that has become more able to distinguish between what is good and what is bad, and evaluate what the newspapers publish.

A reader may not trust a newspaper slamming a minister or a government official after he/she learns from another source that the minister or official in question refused to pay the newspaper for publishing unnecessary or unapproved congratulations in his name.

Another form of cheating the journalistic responsibility is that a newspaper publishes stories saying that products of a company are contaminated or don't meet the required specifications because the company doesn't advertise in its pages. Later on, the same newspaper publishes a story saying the same company's products are good and satisfy the required specifications after it received advertisements from the company. The purpose of this is to extort the company.

In addition, another example is that of a writer who praises and speaks well of a company, saying it is the best ever in the nation because he wants to get a job opportunity in that company. These examples top the list of primary reasons why some newspapers, if not most of them, stopped publishing critical and important stories. Such newspapers don't care about real facts and critical stories. They lost their sense of objectivity because their heroes are either political foes or commercial rivals.

Source: Al-Thawra Daily.