New Leadership of Journalists: Syndicate Starts Corrective Measures [Archives:1999/12/Law & Diplomacy]

March 22 1999

On Thursday, March 18th, 1999, the Second National Convention of the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate concluded its 4-day meetings. 122 delegates attended the meetings, barely giving the 50% legal quorum required for the 214 delegates.
Many newspapers and journalists stayed away from the convention because they felt that the People’s General Congress was going to take over the syndicate. Others boycotted the meetings because of irregularities during the preparation stages, especially in the election of delegates from the governorates.
Those were not the only troubles the organizers faced. There were heated debates inside the sessions as some delegates almost used their fists to make their points. In one case, one delegate used his shoes to slap another delegate in order to make his see light. He saw starts, not light.

At the end of it all, however,the convention was concluded and several important steps were taken. These include:
1) Re-structuring the charter of the syndicate in order to make it difficult for non-journalists to get a membership card.
2) Changing some items in the charter to reduce interference by politicians and to minimize the influence of politics in the work of the syndicate.
3) Limiting membership to press journalists only.
4) Electing a new board of directors for the syndicate.
5) Giving the new leadership a 3-month period to carry out the reforms and changes.
Mr. Mahboob Ali, the newly-elected chairman of the syndicate, told a press conference on Saturday, March 20th, 1999, that the syndicate needs the support of all journalists. “For those who are demanding an ideal situation, I ask them to join us in making such situation a reality. It is easy to point an accusing finger. It is much more difficult to join us in the hard work ahead of us,” he indicated.
Indeed, he was referring to the famous Arabic proverb, “It is better to light one candle, than to curse the darkness”.

Meanwhile, several opposition and disgruntled journalists are talking about setting up a parallel syndicate, under whatever name. They indicate that a pluralist political system allows pluralism in unions and syndicates.

One of the main difficulties with the new structure of the syndicate’s board is the dominance of the PGC people. Of the thirteen leaders of the syndicate, eight are PGC members – a comfortable majority.

The confused picture is expected to clear up over the next few weeks. The new leadership of the syndicate has a golden opportunity to introduce corrective measures and to win over the majority of journalists, who are still sitting on the fence. Even the hardliners can be won over if they see serious steps soon.