Silver LiningJournalists under attack [Archives:2005/872/Opinion]

August 29 2005

By Mohammed Hatem al-Qadhi
[email protected]

The recent kidnapping and attack of Jamal Amer, editor of al-Wassat reaffirms the intolerance of the present regime to the media and their efforts to gag dissent. Our colleague was treated with violence and brutality by men in a military vehicle wearing plain-clothes.

This political regime is obsessed with the idea that all criticism of the government or its proceedings indicates collusion with foreign powers. If the US supports the rights people and wants to tackle corruption, introduce reforms and development in Yemen, then working as an agent of the Americans would benefit Yemen at large and be justified.

Further, the US doesn't need agents any more as recruiting agents is old fashioned and illogical because the US now has space technology that can even film the sands in the desert of Yemen.

The assault of Amer and the recent repression of the media are an indication that the current regime is losing its nerve and behaving hysterically. They can do nothing but harass outspoken individuals and steal computers from newspapers like al-Nida and the Associated Press.

In despair, one of my friends said “This is crazy and is intolerable any more. We have to close down newspapers and open coffee shops. Democracy is becoming a big lie,”.

Of course kidnapping, assaulting and threatening journalists is not a new business for the security men. It occurred before with other journalists and writers like Abdulaziz al-Saqqaf and Abu Bakr al-Saqqaf.

What is funny is that the Ministry of Interior said the attackers of Amer will be hunted down and that several people use military license plate-numbers illegally. This is nonsense and a stupid excuse which shows that even the military is corrupt.

Suppose that we believe the Ministry of the Interior claims, then why did these thieves question Amer about his writings and his relationship with embassies? Logically, thieves have nothing do with the alleged relationship between Amer and the embassies. Who are these thieves that are annoyed by the writings of al-Wassat against corruption and who asked him to stop writing against his “masters”. They must be no ordinary thieves.

I challenge the ministry of interior to announce the names of the attackers whose car plate number was jotted down by a friend of Amer. Can they establish that they have no connection with the terrorization of a journalist and the violation of free speech and personal security for all members of the press? They conduct dialogue with terrorists, and yet prohibit free dialogue from the press.

Al-Shoura, a publication which has been very active in reporting corruption, was closed down. Al-Thawri was silenced by the socialist party itself after pressure was applied from the presidential office and the editor was threatened with violence. Now, it is the turn of al-Wasat and al-Nida. These newspapers have crossed the line and for the first time have threatened corrupt individuals who are threatened by transparency.

The socialist party made a grave mistake when it ordered the suspension of al-Thawri under the pretext of reconsidering the way the paper has been reporting. I do not think that the paper has gone astray and has not been on the right track or following the tendency of the socialist party that identifies with the oppressed masses whose rights are abused by nepotism and corruption.

On the contrary, this is the line the socialist should be heading to promote honest, critical journalism that is able to disclose officials' corruption and hold them accountable.

Such a decision by the socialist truly demonstrates that politics is a dirty game and that journalists should never count on politicians. Politicians have their own interests to take into account but journalists have nothing but reporting the truth. Therefore, I believe it is important that journalists should come together and establish their own media institutions.

These would be independent, dispassionate and politically neutral. International human rights and press freedom organizations should also break loose as human rights abuse is no longer an internal business that has to do with countries as individuals but is a global issue that matters to everybody.

International donor such as aid organizations, NGO's and international monetary institutions must make sure that their money is not used by regimes in the violation of human rights and attacks on journalists and reformists.

Otherwise, journalists will always be persecuted by both regimes and parties and their impact will be mercenary and not impartial.