Press Law in Yemen (Part 1) [Archives:2005/907/Opinion]

December 29 2005

Abdurrahim Muhsin
The Press Law in Yemen has just returned to the circle of discussion after it was neglected for a long time now. This law has been pushed to the light just after the President has returned from the U.S. where he was demanded to protect rights of opinion expression and freedom of the press. A freedom, which is confined by oppressive laws and operates under bias judicial authorities.

The Shura Council has moved in the preplanned direction, leaving behind an impression to the foreign countries that it works for the sake of freedoms and rights. It tends to announce a new dawn of freedoms contained in the Press Law set by indecent people in the current authority. This council serves like a stick at the hands of the Security Intelligence System and is mostly used when there are political needs. The law that has come out in a culture of oppression is merely an additional product of the continued war between the regime, on the one hand, and self-expression and press freedom, on the other, a battle that started in 1990.

The last ten years witnessed a severe war between the regime with its security intelligence system and the new opposition composed of journalists and political writers. It took the freedom of expression as a new battleground because it seems different from the media war preceding 1994 crises. This new war broke out after a the opposition was weakened post 1994. The Yemeni Socialist Party and the Islah Party composed this opposition, the former defeated in the 1994 and the latter explored the effects of the exploitation practiced by the regime and some other smaller parties. This led empowering the security intelligence system further than the political and journalistic oppositions and some civil community organizations topped by the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate.

The supreme security intelligence authority formed field teams to wage war against the press and expression freedoms. These teams are firstly: The Security and Intelligence Team; this team launched its campaigns after 1994, starting with the capture of Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, writer Ali Al-Sarari, lawyer Mohamed Al-Mekhlafi and journalist Ahmad Al-Sofi (opposition leader in the past and currently a ruling party member. This team also attacked Abu Bakr Al-Saqqaf, intellectual, the late writer Zain Al-Saqqaf and captured and tortured an unexpected number of journalistic and opinion writers. This team used different means of threat through post, the electronic e-mail and faxes against several male and female journalists, in addition to the storming of Ahmad Al-Haj's office and practicing pressure on newspapers and media means.

Secondly: the Information Ministry Team; this ministry posed challenge to all the Yemeni journalistic writers and filed indictments against them with treason as its core. This ministry proved to be a main part of the internal oppression systems and tended to pursue practices other than its national tasks and responsibilities. It forwarded reports to the prosecution, accusing editors and journalistic writers of treason. Al-Thawri Newspaper faced the largest number of charges, as 13 suites have been filed against it until 2005, followed by Al-Ayyam and Al-Shura papers, the last of which was closed more than once and its chief editor was imprisoned for one year. Regarding Al-Nihar paper, its managing editor was subjected to a terrorist operation.

The Ministry of Information contributed to flooding the market with newspapers, funded by the political and nationalist security apparatuses, but it refused to grant permissions to any opposition or independent newspapers.

Thirdly: State-run Newspapers Team; these papers are supposed to be possessed by the whole society, so, they should not be partial to any political party or organization, whether ruling or opposition they are, but the constitutional dominance and fraudulent democracy changed them into foes. The 26 September weekly, affiliated to the Ministry of Defense, topped the governmental newspapers that play the role of terrorizing intellectuals. Most of the materials contained in this paper are controlled by the regime. This newspaper is still beyond the defense ministry's control, particularly after it recently covered events of the ruling party's Seventh General Conference and the political and national reforms project presented by the opposition.

This paper violated the constitution, the military and political parties and organizations laws and all the writing-related conventions. It plays a partisan role for the interest of a certain individual and wastes large sums of money for the sake of combating democracy and the freedoms of press and expression. Al-Thawrah daily comes second in the sense of boosting power of the individual. In case of a crisis relation between the regime and the opposition, it tends to play the role of a launch pad for firing destructive missiles and forgets that fact that it was established for serving society and the social peace. It fights writers who criticize the performance of government officials.

Fourthly: Regime Newspapers such as Al-Mithaq, 22 May, Taiz and Al-Masila which play a negative role contravening the humanitarian values for curbing any opposition activities.

Fifthly: the Prosecution and Judiciary Team; the ruler started to exploit the judiciary in 1998, and Al-Thawri was the first paper to be tried on unreasonable charges under the Article No. 103 of publication bans.

The prosecution continued to receive all the suits contrived by the Ministry of Information and some malicious officials and upheld unjustifiable sentences against opinion and journalistic writers.

Abdurrahim Muhsin is a well-known Yemeni journalist and opposition activist. Established the anti-regime movement called “Irhalo” which means get out. He was a former media person of the presidency office until he was dismissed recently and harassed because of his opposing attitude and writings.