Najib Fraiji: “The role of Yemen Times and its editor in making Yemen come to terms with the values of our modern world is undeniable.” [Archives:1998/25/Reportage]

June 22 1998

Mr. Najib Fraiji is the outgoing director of the UN Information Center in Sanaa. A former journalist from Tunisia, Mr. Fraiji joined the UN some 10 years ago as an information officer. He had served in New York during the second Gulf war. He was appointed as information officer at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which covers the Arab Gulf countries plus Yemen and Egypt. He arrived in Yemen in 1994, just before the civil war and founded the UN Information Center in Yemen.
Mohammed Bin Sallam of Yemen Times talked to him shortly before his departure to his new post in Beirut, and filed the following interview.
Q: From 1994 until now, what has working in Yemen added to your experience in the field of media and journalism?
A: The achievement is that I have established for the first time a UN Information Center (UNIC) in Yemen is a rich experience. This center has worked hard to bring the UN closer to the public opinion of the Yemeni people.
In that regard, I must thank the Yemeni media for they did a great job in helping achieve my objectives.
I believe that the UN agencies really work like one team within the country. I would like to thank the resident coordinator for his efforts to bring together all the UN agencies to assist the Yemeni government and the Yemeni people in view of achieving a sustainable human development.
Q: Have you noticed any development in the journalistic and informational abilities and techniques during your stay here in Yemen?
A: Of course. I have seen the Yemeni media grow visibly. The Yemen Times represents the leading edge to this flow, but many others have made tremendous strides.
I am sure to continue reading Yemeni newspapers through the internet, watch Yemeni satellite TV and listen to the radio.
Q: What attracts your attention in the Yemeni media?
A: The whole debate about the role of the media in Yemen is a source of pleasure and hope. I expect the government, independent media, and union of journalists are going to work together for what the Prime Minister called a ‘partnership’.
Q: What are the positive and negative aspects of the Yemeni media?
A: What I am going to say is not a compliment, but a fact. Yemen is among the few countries in the Third World that enjoys such a large scope of the information media. This is not available in many countries and within this large field, you can express many opinions, tendencies and ideologies.
The few problems that I have witnessed during the four years are out-numbered by the positive aspects. I hope that the media will continue improving its professional skills by adopting a research attitude to its coverage. I also think that journalists should learn other languages in addition to Arabic. My problem was that few journalists understood or spoke both English and Arabic. I think that even journalists who work in Arabic newspapers should master at least one other language, in addition to Arabic which is a must.
I also think that media institutions must have as a component to their professional pursuit a training policy. Journalists should be trained on a regular basis to keep up with the technological media, information and communication developments.
Q: What about freedom of the press in Yemen?
A: I think freedom of the press here in Yemen is flourishing. People’s attitudes towards this freedom sometimes differ, but this is normal. In addition to the daily and weekly newspapers and periodicals, the flow of foreign media here makes Yemen one of the few countries where freedom of the press cannot be labeled as non-existent.
It is not a coincidence that the first and only conference organized by the UN and UNSECO on the press in the Arab states was held in Yemen. Hundreds of media professionals met and discussed this issue.
Let me mention here the Yemen Times. The pioneering role of this paper and its editor – Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf – in making Yemen come to terms with the values of our modern world is undeniable.
Q: How was your assignment in Yemen?
A: I had the opportunity to live with the Yemenis during the war that sealed the unity of Yemen, a dream that every Arab and many international observers have.
I did not take my assignment as an easy job, but what made it alright was the open-mindedness of the Yemeni people. Yemen has been grateful to the UN in general.
I would all like to thank all my UN and Yemeni media colleagues, who have spared no effort to make some kind of dialogue with the UN through the Information Center.
I will always have good memories from Yemen and will certainly not forget my friends in government, especially those in the media and cultural fields, the artists and sportsmen.
I learnt a lot about myself, my origin and the whole civilization here in Yemen. And Yemen from Mareb to Aden and to Sanaa is like a history book in itself. When I drive in Yemen, every place has a reference, and I always tell my friends: ‘When you walk in Yemen, you walk into a history book.’
Q: What is your new post?
A: I will serve as the head of the UN Information Center in Lebanon, which also covers Syria, Kuwait and Jordan. Then I will be the head of the UN Information Service, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. It serves the objectives for achieving a regional cooperation among the 30 member countries, which includes Yemen, and all Arab countries, except the Maghreb states.
Q: Any last comments?
A: I would like to thank all Yemenis for their hospitality and assistance, also the government, journalists, officials, even my landlord, and finally my colleagues at the UN center who have all worked as one team.