Report on The Freedom of Press Violations in Yemen during 2000 PART 2 IN A SERIES [Archives:2001/22/Law & Diplomacy]

May 28 2001

Mohamed Sadiq
Head of Administrative Affairs, Yemen Journalist Syndicate
Recently, the Yemeni Journalist Syndicate (YJS) released its annual report on the violations of the freedom of the press in the Republic of Yemen in the year 2000. The report includes information and statistics about different instance of violations against newspapers and journalists which have different ideologies, affiliations and political and cultural backgrounds. In the 9th General Assembly of the Arab Journalists Union held in Amman, Jordan in October 2000, for the first time ever, Yemen, represented by YJS’s chairman Mr. Mahboob Ali, won the position of deputy chairman of the union. YJS’s delegation attending the conference distributed the initial draft of the report to the participants in a courageous step to reveal the true picture of the freedom of the press in Yemen.
After the release of this report, which was the first to be written by a non-governmental local organization dealing with the freedom of the press in Yemen, several journalists and freedom of the press supporters expressed their admiration and support for this courageous and exceptional move.
Before discussing the contents of this report, I feel it essential to note the fact that not only did I deliver in this series the contents of the report, but added more updates to some of the cases in the report and commented on many others. This was possible because of my personal involvement with what happened and what has been reported on, either in newspapers or filed in court against fellow journalists.
The comments, detailed descriptions and updated information have all served well in clarifying the confusing points in each complicated case. I realized that such efforts will indeed highlight the importance of drawing attention to different cases reflecting a true misery of the press in Yemen.
In addition to what has been mentioned here as part of the YJS’s report and what I personally added as comments and updates, I quoted all that was taken from the report and left what I added unquoted. This was despite the fact that I was personally involved in most of the work in preparing the report with the assistance of Mr. Mahboob Ali, with whom I shared most of my ideas regarding the meaninglessness of any democracy that doesn’t contain freedom of the press.
Monitoring cases of violation Freedom of Press in Yemen: The Report
The report consists of 30 typed pages formatted in tables indicating the “Name of Oppressed”, “Date of Violation”, “Case and Who Caused the Violation”, along with the “YJS’s Stand”. The violations mentioned in the report range from lawsuits to torture and sometimes assassination attempts.
Interestingly, violations against the press were due to extremely diverse and contradictory reasons. Perhaps this is a direct result of abruptly embracing democracy and announcement of freedom of the press and expression by our country.
Here I mention the main violations that took place during 2000.
A Yemeni journalist was banned from writing for life, which is a capital punishment for any journalist. He was sentenced to “journalistic death” and a fine plus the suspension of the newspaper he was working in when he wrote an article that allegedly caused harm to Yemeni-Saudi relationships.
On the other hand, a report on the Sanaa University Medicine Faculty’s ripper, Mohamed Adam resulted in the beating up of a couple of journalists in the hands of security officers, and also the threat to two other journalists to be killed by identified persons.
Among the outrageous lawsuits filed against journalists in 2000 was a case filed against Al-Thaqafiya magazine for publishing the story entitled, ‘Sanaa, an Open City” for a Yemeni writer who died more than 25 years ago. A massive wave of accusations against the editor of the newspaper for being infidel to Islam along with the court case was the result.
In addition, an editor-in-chief of a newspaper was chased by political security forces for hours and eventually arrested. He disappeared for days, until he eventually came out of hiding. Another incident involved a journalist who attempted to photograph private prisons. He was beaten up and taken to one of the prisons he was taking photos of. Another journalist faced a deadly attempt on his life. But when the assassination attempt failed, his family and house were attacked with various weapons including machine guns and kalashnikovs. Other incidents include the attempted assassination of a journalist, harassment and imprisonment by security forces for the the articles they wrote. Interestingly, some of the journalists were put under confinement in their own houses, and electricity and water supply were cut off. The siege ended only after a foreigner was released by his kidnappers, who were at odds with the government.
The report includes instances of many such violations that trigger a lot of concern and worry for the future of the freedom of the press in Yemen.
From the next week, all those violations will be presented in detail.
Part III next week.