SILVER LININGRepressive laws never produce social peace [Archives:2007/1082/Opinion]

September 3 2007

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Instead of taking actions towards boosting freedom of expression and gearing up the country for further democratization, the Yemeni political regime is inventing and initiating new tricks that bring about further restrictions to freedom of expression and press. The people in Yemen and the donors are awaiting the new amended press and publications after two years of debates among the journalistic and political community over the draft law drafted by the government. Yemen government committed itself that the amended draft press law will abolish the jail sentence and broaden the scope of freedom of journalists. It also said it would allow private ownership of broadcast media. I wonder how this will take place while new repressive laws are under way.

The government is supposed to exercise double efforts to find a way out of the economic impasse we are going through and think of solutions for the problems the country is facing either in the southern governorates or in Sa'ada where the truce with the rebels is reaching a deadlock. However, we are shocked to find it is busy with cooking a draft law meant to put more restrictions and taboos on journalists, politicians and the public at large.

Recently, the government has secretly endorsed a new draft law for the so-called “National Unity Protection” (NUP). This draft law has been tailored with the aim of protecting national unity, social peace, republican system, national fixed norms, democratic system, the person of the president tc. Any one who abuses such open-ended and loose terms is to be punished to 2-15 years in jail. But, the sentence can reach death penalty if the defendant according to the text of the draft law has caused the death of any person. In other words, if a journalist, for instance, reports about any issue that might lead to protest wherein riot police kill a protestor, then the journalist receives death penalty. According to the draft law, if you draw a caricature for the president and cynically criticize him, you are bound to serve two years in jail. Wow!

The draft law is really taking us back to the totalitarian period prior unification in 1990 or even worse. It is catastrophic as the journalists, politicians and other democracy activists become under attack. The kidnap and brutal attack of the journalist Abdulkareem al-Khaiwani last Monday is a genuine demonstration of how these people intent to deal with their opponents. The man was harshly beaten up and the security apparatus response was that the man fabricated the story and beat himself in order to abuse the reputation of the security. This is frightening. In addition, this is the democracy model Yemen's regime would like to export to the region.

All and all, such loose terms of the NUP draft law the regime considers taboos can be well protected by good governance rather than by totalitarian laws that drive us back into chaos. Social peace will not be attained unless there is equal distribution of wealth, respect for law and order; it is more freedom and more democracy that ensure stability and security of the nation against any split and turmoil rather than such repressive laws. Hey guys, it is dictatorship and totalitarianism that have brought about the destruction and fall of a number of countries.

Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.