Report on Freedom of Press Violations in Yemen during 2000 PART 5 IN A SERIES [Archives:2001/26/Law & Diplomacy]
Head of Administrative Affairs, YJS
Significant Deterioration in the Status of the Freedom of Press
The YJS’s report also included snapshots of significant violations committed against opposition and independent newspapers including, Al-Shoura, Al-Ayyam, Al-Tajammu. The report also brought about the issue of harassing correspondents of Saba News Agency as well as Arab and international news agencies and publications. The correspondent of the ruling party, GPC’s mouthpiece Al-Mithaq was also among the victims of freedom of press oppression mentioned in the report. The YJS also noted the importance of handling the issue of journalists of Aden-based Sawt Al-Ummal opposition newspaper which discontinued publication after the 1994 civil war and demanded their safe return to their homeland. The report openly criticized the situation of the press freedom in Yemen and expressed its concern over its continuous deterioration.
Specifically, the YJS denounced violations committed against Al-Shoura weekly newspaper, mouthpiece of the People Forces Union Party, which was among the contributors to the flourishing of press freedom in Yemen since 1990. It condemned the illegal suspension of Al-Shoura for 6 months with just an order from the Ministry of Information without any legal court proceedings. Al-Shoura was eventually sentenced to more than 10 months of suspension.
The report unveiled the penalty against the Editor-in-chief of Al-Thawri, mouthpiece of the Yemeni Socialist Party who was sentenced to imprisonment for six months because of publishing a story the rape of a number of girls in the Hadhramout governorate by official security force personnel. It also expressed serious concern for the verdict in August 2000 in the governorate of Aden against the Editor-in-chief of Al-Tajammu weekly, mouthpiece of the Yemeni Unionist Party. The sentence was issued because of a column published in the newspaper criticizing the judicial authority as inefficient and corrupt. The sentence ordered the imprisonment of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief for 6 months and a compensation fee to be paid by the newspaper.
Regarding the tri-weekly Aden-based Al-Ayyam, the YJS report mentioned the violations committed against the newspaper in general and its editor-in-chief in particular. It also pointed out what Hassan bin Husainun, a columnist in the newspaper had gone through because of his column published in the newspaper in which he condemned the destruction of the Jewish temple in Aden, considered as a part of cultural heritage of the city of Aden.
Al-Ayyam has been among the most frequently harassed and oppressed newspapers. Its editor-in-chief, Hisham Basharaeel had faced several cases in the past, most of them for publishing news items and columns in the newspaper.
Violations against several correspondents of Arab, regional, and international news agencies and newspapers were also included in the report. The YJS mentioned in its report that it received a statement by several correspondents saying that they have been harassed and threatened by Al-Mithaq newspaper, the mouthpiece of the GPC (the ruling party led by President Ali Abdullah Saleh). This action was denounced by the press community and all intellectuals and organizations defending human rights and freedom of press and expression. The YJS considered those threats in a supportive press release as “a violation of the ethics of journalism.”
Violations of 2001 and the Future of Press Freedom
I feel it has become essential at this particular point to compare the violations in the recent past, mentioned in the report, with those of 2001, which I will be summarizing in this section. The last 6 months (first half of 2001) have raised more concern and worries among the press community and, in particular, at the YJS. The number of violations continues to rise putting the future of press freedom at risk. Comparing the violations against the freedom of press in 2000 to those in of 2001, one could easily conclude that the sources of those violations in 2000 were different and related to many different sectors and groups. However, interestingly enough, more than 98% of the 2001 violations were made by the authorities concerned with different military and judicial organs of the state. This obviously signals a dangerously shrinking margin for the freedom of press in Yemen, which continues to get narrower every year.
The violations of 2001 started with a campaign against several press institutions as the authorities closed down a newspaper in January. During March the trial of Al-Ayyam continued. In April another newspaper was suspended and within a week after that, another was prevented from circulation ironically on 3rd of May when the world celebrated the press freedom day. A newspaper was closed down and another was faced with a sudden trial. On a june, coinciding with the 10th jubilee of the Yemeni press day, Al-Shoura newspaper was closed down for the third time following a ruling issued more than a year ago. The ruling included a punishment of 80 lashes for its then Editor-in-chief, Abdullah Saad, who died as his family says, in suspicious circumstances..
What was most upsetting was the war waged against the outgoing seventh batch of the Faculty of Information. The dean of the faculty openly criticized the graduation projects completed by the students, such as “Al-Rasid”, “Al-Waqi”, and “Al-Tajdid”. Those newspapers were admired for their high quality content and distinguished journalistic style. Instead of encouraging such marvelous efforts those publications were confiscated by the Ministry of Information in an operation that created total disappointment and discouragement among the newly graduated students. This constitutes yet another indication of the intimidation imposed on the free press.
Next week: Cont’d Violations of 2001 plus Conclusion (Final Part)