Realistic writing on reality [Archives:2006/1009/Opinion]

December 21 2006

By: Ali Haitham Al-Gharib
Of the misfortunes of our press in the three decades sine independence and before the declaration of unity on May 22, 1990 is that government media interpret everything the political regime sees and ushers as positive and they demand the reader understand issues in their manner. To sum it up the official media were dotting their I's and crossing their T's and deprived others of any contrary opinion. Many writers and journalists kept the uniformity of opinion and word and totalitarian laws were passed to that effect.

At the present time with a democratic margin it does not of course allow the existence of various viewpoints, but there is a motivation for that. Freedom of the word is still fought against by politicians and supporters of the uniformity of opinion familiar inside most of the political parties. We should not forget that there are still those who consider that dispatching one opinion decided officially to all newspapers is much easier than permitting discussions inside the government. Hence there are established protected areas, persons and groups that must not be criticized. Anyone violating this prohibition, a hysterical fuss will be aroused, do not impinge on the constants, do not touch on our group and don't cross these red lines. I think this is a temporary phenomenon resulting from the totalitarian past and the first steps of democracy which our society has not yet learned to live with.

The process of expression in the media at the present time is very slow and does not include the necessary press and media life and it does not proceed at an equal speed. For instance there are now tens of newspapers and magazines piled at kiosks and bookshops and rejected by the reader because they do not fulfill the message required by the citizen. And there are, on the other hand, newspapers publishing articles and facts which were prohibited and they demonstrate the life and suffering of the citizen and because of this stance those newspapers are exposed to harassment by government apparatuses and pursuits by press and publications prosecution. At one period the share of Al-Ayyam newspaper of this treatment and charges against the press was amounting 98 percent.

The human society at present must know all the facts. The Yemeni people today must know the facts of their past and present. They must know not just the accomplishments and gains but also the false slogans and inaccurate statistics about their living and also their causes and consequences on their future so that they will not be repeated.

The changes in ethics and laws of our press are receiving support from the readers more than the journalists. I think those who read little or do not read tend to be more suspect towards the changes and media openness. Many of them regretfully think that if they refuse everything will remain as it is. They have not use the word of the freedom of expression which does not mean anything for them despite how it delivers them from going too far in devouring the food of the people and provides possibility of effecting useful changes. The freedom of speech is a great issue especially after they taught us in the South for decades and tens of years in the North the demonstrative praising and confirming privileges of the man through keeping silent.

Our press at present is at a turning point. Writing as it was used in the past has become a rejected matter and writing in a new way is something the government has not yet learnt. The draft law of press and publications is another backward step and there is refusal of giving the press its freedom. The periods of prohibition have had their harmful affect on the draft law of press and wring. Nevertheless, even if we remained without law the facts will come out under the light even if they were in a brief manner. We have to realize that among the reasons that prepared the way for the process of change is the work of some newspapers and writers who have stood trial in prisons.

The previous period has singled out considerable number of sincere writings keen on freedom of the word and saturated with the love for the people, thirsty for justice and resentment against those violating them. It should be said that many newspapers have preserved those ethics in the best examples. We hope that the men of word can do very much to assist the people on moving forward with democracy and human rights and towards understanding the educational, national and political value of news stories and the free word.

Ali Haitham Al-Gharib is a Yemeni writer.

Source: Al-ayyam newspaper