Report on Freedom of Press Violations in Yemen During 2000 Part 6 (Final) [Archives:2001/27/Law & Diplomacy]
Head of Administrative Affairs, YJS
Continued Deterioration in Press Freedom
The discussions regarding the return of the 16 journalists who were banished for their stand in the 1994 civil war took so long to reach a conclusion despite the fact that the President himself approved of their return. The YJS management met with several of those journalists who are in Cairo and discussed the arrangements to secure their return to their home country and to their previous jobs. However, the failure to reach a conclusion despite YJS’s efforts reveals a serious gap between the YJS as a civil society organization and the decision-making bodies in the country.
I personally believe that the picture is dismal and the situation evokes pessimism when one compares the situation of press freedom in 2001 to that of 2000. The first month of 2001 opened with a sentence against Al-Shumu’ newspaper. The sentence was not a normal one, it was a cluster of sentences against the newspaper and its editor-in-chief:
1- closure of the newspaper suspension of its editor-in-chief from writing and his imprisonment for 6 months with fines. The ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court causing deep concern for the pro-freedom of press movement. Another such sentence was given against “17 July” newspaper for certain articles it had published.
In April 2001, the Ministry of Information confiscated the first issue of the “Human Rights”, a newspaper promoting human rights and reporting violations committed against civilians. The ministry held that the newspaper was not permitted publication in the first place. In the same month, the 118th edition of the independent weekly Al-Usboo newspaper was also confiscated by security forces and its distributor was imprisoned for 8 hours. The security office stated that the newspaper was confiscated because it included ‘spurious articles’. Those incidents were later considered a part of a campaign against the free press by the authorities, which sent two memos to all newspapers and correspondents requesting not to publish any information regarding the military and other issues without the prior permission of the government. Those instructions obviously constituted the ‘redlines’ that journalists should not cross.
The month of April 2001 also witnessed several other incidents of violation of the freedom of the press and expression. A Taiz-based journalist was chased in the city by armed groups for expressing an article he wrote criticizing the state of security in the country. Another journalist, Talal Al-Sharjabi was beaten up harshly because of his opinions. A number of armed men surrounded Al-Wahdawi newspaper in the same month threatening to lay siege the building for an article that was written about a certain tribal issue in Mareb.
Hassan Al-Zaidi, of Yemen Times was also a victim of those atrocities as his house in Mareb was attacked with tank missiles and machine gun bullets. One month after that he was arrested in front of Yemen Times premises on the 10th of June by the Political Security Office (PSO) without any justifications of warrant. He was forbidden from contacting his lawyer or meeting his family members in prison until he was released two weeks later.
On the other hand, journalists Abdulkareem Al-Khaiwani, Abdulkareem Qassim, Mohamed Hussein Haitham, Nassir Yahya, Ali Al-Saqqaf are all standing trial on a weekly basis because of opinion crimes. Some of the journalists were put on trial for crimes they have never committed. There are still cases against “Al-Sahwa” newspaper, mouthpiece of the largest opposition party Islah, “Al-Wahdawi” of the Nasserite Unionist Party, and “Al-Hikma” magazine of the Yemeni Authors Union.
It is obvious that the report of 2001 will include more violations than 2000, especially as so many violations have already been reported in the first 6 months. The 2001 YJS report is expected to be released at the beginning of 2002.
The YJS report on freedom of the press violations in Yemen during 2000, issued in Arabic language revealed many of the sufferings and assaults Yemeni journalists went through in 2000. It could be concluded that the level of press freedom has signaled a steep fall during the last year. It also focused the YJS ‘s increasing efforts to support oppressed journalists and work on maintaining higher awareness about freedom of press issues.
This report is considered the first of its kind issued by the YJS. It will hopefully become an annual report that would expose to the world the facts about violations of the freedom of the press in the Republic of Yemen in an effort to prevent them and to spread awareness about this issue.
This report is a means to make international and local organizations and institutes aware of the problems faced by the press people in Yemen, and work on curbing them as much as possible.
It is hoped that the report would be translated in more than one language to benefit international and regional organizations dealing with the issue of press freedom and to support Yemen’s democratization efforts in future.
* Mohamed Sadiq Al-Udaini is a prominent journalist who had himself suffered from several assaults by authorities and others. He is currently the administrative manager of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate and the member of the General Arab Journalists Union, International Journalists Organization, and Amnesty International.