Press Law in Yemen (Part 2) [Archives:2006/909/Opinion]

January 5 2006

Abdurrahim Muhsin
On Thursday, the 22th of December-2005, hundreds of Yemeni journalists launched a vital shift for a new period of time, which can be named as the period of perceiving the transfer of power and concerns of the cultured contemporary man.

This principle (the peaceful transfer of power), closely linked to democracy, can remove the absolute individual governance from the path whether it is monarch, republican, military or civil. The totalitarian regime pursued by the ruling party gives a chance for the establishment of active and wise communities of rapid political, scientific and economic growth.

Saying no to the Press Law No. 25 issued in 1990 and shaped by an oppressive authority, the Yemeni journalists in Sana'a and Aden realized the importance of independent and free journalism. From differing points of view, they have woven a unified stance toward oppression, totalitarianism and the totalitarian inherited mentality dominating the minds of some of the slaves of the current ruler.

A stance like this is thought of as a distinctive achievement in hard circumstances endured by the Yemeni community due to oppression and corruption. This stance flows in the river of liberation from fear and liberation from oppression and malpractices against political and social activists.

The Law No.25 issued in 1990 is labeled among the first laws issued after the establishment of the unified Republic of Yemen in 1990. It reveals totalitarianism of rulers in power before and after 1990, and its articles, characterized with injustice and oppression against self-expression and press freedom contradicts the claim that Yemen's Re-unification is associated with democracy. It confirms that the totalitarian mentality assumes a totally different form according to time and place.

This Law was not put in effect over the last four years following the establishment of the unified Republic of Yemen and it was only falsely passed on a newspaper under the name of Sada Al-Sha'ab (Public Echo) run by a Sana'a University girl, who has become a GPC member. The name of this girl was Valantina Abdulkarim.

After the expansion of serious opposition writing criticizing the oppressive and corrupt political regime and the international visions on Yemen, the ruler resorted to its totalitarian law for combating such democratic and liberal tide.

A number of interpretations of the Press and Publication Law No.25 for the Year 1990, including a governmental interpretation, were showed by the Ministry of Human Rights under Ms. Amatalalim Al-Suswa. These interpretations agreed that the law put journalism and self-expression at risk and it never fulfills the need for freedoms and rights ought to be enjoyed by the Yemeni community.

Marks brought out from the different interpretations of the law was taken into consideration by the invaluable project that designed the new law with an open eye on the military ruler. The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate presented around 70 remarks during their discussion of the law.

The two U.S. experts Madeline Chakinz and David Emacro gave their famous remark: “A number of law clauses contained in the Press Law are not essential and they can be described as restrictive and vague, leading to the oppression of legal expression.”

The U.S. experts decided that the goal of the Press Law No.25 issued in 1990 and the New Law is to oppress the freedom of expression that started to contribute to directing Yemen to the right path for a better future. This raises a question that is, “What is the hidden goal behind the apparent one?

The totalitarian mentality never has thoughts away from the system of severe penalties to ensure its dominance and stay in power and tend to become more active in the field of arbitrary legislations. The press law, planned to be passed on the democratic countries, donors and international organizations by denying the Yemeni Journalist Syndicate and journalists their legitimacy and rights, is merely a completion of a system of oppressive legislations. These oppressive legislations tend to fight the personal rights, anti-women discrimination laws and the political, economic and cultural freedoms. These legislations are approved with an allegiant majority of MPs, Shura Council members and Cabinet officials.

The Press Law No.25 and the New Law are based on a unified philosophy that is prohibition and criminalizing through the Article of publication bans. The lawmaker devoted the six chapter, titled “Publication Bans and the Penal Provisions” for restricting freedom of the press. It laid more emphasis on the goal aimed at harboring the corrupt minority who do not accept criticism, transparency or accountability because of its dominance over the constitutions and laws. This conduct was not limited to it, but it reached other systems.

Now it is time to pose at Item No.12 of the Publication Ban, which say: ” Direct criticism of the character of the statesman, attributing any sayings to him or publishing any photo for him can only be done after a permission from the President's Office and the Ministry of Information unless what is to be published has occurred in an address to the public or in an interview. These provisions are not passed on the objective criticism, but they are passed on what harms presidents and kings of brotherly and friendly countries.”

Pausing at the final paragraph, one can notice that it falls into three parts: kings of brotherly and friendly countries such as Jordan and Britain, presidents of brotherly and friendly countries such as Iraq and the U.S. and presidents and kings of enemy countries that we do not know.

Rule in Yemen gave itself a right which is not possessed by anyone and it can never be overwhelmed by any citizen from Jordan, Iraq, Britain or the U.S. where officials are held to account- except in Jordan- from junior employees to the statesman. So, why has the ruler intervened in matters that never concern him nor do they concern anyone in the brotherly and friendly countries.

Concerning the statesman, his throne appear to be an exalted and worshiped platform beyond the political reality. He can rule, commit war crimes, embezzle public money, penalize whoever he wants and as he wants, do what he likes and gratify his desires and lusts without being criticized, monitored or held to account. What a kind of statesman is this? From which planet has he come? And what are the features he enjoys?

We do not know why freedom is neglected. Is it because of illiteracy and slavery of some officials, or because of something else?

The former U.S. President Clinton was subjected to interrogation for exploiting his post to gratify his personal desires, and another president in Africa was tried for being accused of raping one of his guards. There are also three presidents in South America who are investigated before being tried.

The Press Law in Yemen makes things worse than they should be; it distinguishes journalists from citizens with the establishment of special ministry and special court, and out of the President's post, it made an exalted deity despite the fact all those are human beings to be governed under the law and respected by the law unless they commit crimes.

We strongly reject the Press Law No. 25 issued in 1990, based on our freedom and right for self-expression on different life issues, locally and internationally. We reject to retrieve from our clear stand toward the restrictions imposed on our community by the Intelligence Security System.

We say to all activists to dispense with slavery that deny their rights and freedoms in one-way or another.

Abdulrrahim 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.