Newspapers closed and journalist fired [Archives:2005/902/Front Page]

December 12 2005

Mohammed Bin Sallam
& Hamkim Almasmari

SANA'A, Dec.10)The Capital Western Court issued a verdict under which the Al-Usbou private newspaper is shut down for three months. Al-Usbou's chief-editor Mr. Jamal al-Udaini was fined a sum of 30 thousand Yemeni Riyals on the same bases. The newspaper was convicted for charges of badmouthing against the General Manager of the Education Office in the capital and was obliged to publish an apology in the State-run al-Thawrah Newspaper addressed to the Education Office.

Mr. Jamal al-Udaini in a press statement expressed his shock with the verdict stating that it was a direct violation to press freedom and human right to expression.

The court also issued another verdict against Al-Rasd weekly newspaper. Al-Rasd is to cease working for one month while its chief editor Mr. Abdulwadoud Al-Matari was sentenced to two months in prison. The paper and its editor were accused of insulting Mr. Mohamed Abdu Sa'eed, a Member of Parliament and head of the well-known Hayel Sa'eed business group.

In a statement to the Yemen Times, Abdulwadoud Al-Matari, Editor-in-Chief of al-Rasd commented on the verdict: “The government should not claim to promote journalism especially that their financial support for independent newspapers does not exceed 300$ per year. I was hoping the paper is suspended for a year or two so that we are saved the financial burden and professional responsibility. Then I would dedicate my time to a more worthwhile profession in literature.”

Concerning the insulted MP Mr. Mohamed Abdu, Al-Matari said: “we highly respect him and if we were harsh on him in our newspaper then it was because we wanted to criticized him for some inadequacies, particularly for matters related to Al-A'arooq Road that was not paved yet. This road falls within our constituency No. 42, where he is the local representative and I guess now we will have to depend on ourselves in paving the remaining 4 kilometers. We never meant to insult him and we apologize if he felt upset about it.”

On his behalf, Mohamed Abdu Sa'eed Ana'am said: “I forgive al-Rasd paper and its chief editor and I will back Al-Matari and help him. What I really want for the Yemeni media is to have constructive journalism is ” the MP added.

Consequently, earlier this week, Mr. Hafez Bukhari was fired from his job as Manager of Saudi owned Okaz Newspaper branch in Yemen. The letter from Okaz to Mr. Bukhari said that it was in the general interest of the newspaper to fire him. On contacting Okaz Newspaper for their comments concerning this issue, the administration said it was a direct order from the chief editor. In his turn Okaz Newspaper editor in chief did not comment.

A number of Yemeni journalists feel that political pressure was exerted on Okaz Newspaper to fire Hafez Bukhari. They feel that this was a way to get back at the active journalist for having a positive role defending press freedom and media rights in Yemen. In a statement to the Yemen Times Mr. Bukhari said: “I prefer not to comment on this decision and it will definitely not have an influence in my active role in defending press freedom”.

As of last year Hafez Bukhari has been working as an advisory board member of a project called Dissent and Reforms in the Middle East. This project is adopted by American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and is considered a threat to some of the current regimes, because it calls for political reforms. Two weeks ago Mr. Bukhari resigned from the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate where he was the Secretariat General. He said then that the reason for his resignation was the harsh and unjust procedures the government was doing in order to passing the Press Law.