Silver LiningSaleh visit and State media camouflage [Archives:2005/896/Opinion]

November 21 2005

Mohammed Hatem al-Qadhi
[email protected]

The latest visit of president Ali Abdullah Saleh to Japan, US and France has shown the real problem of the people in charge of the media policy in the country. It also showed the totalitarian mentality that still controls these people who do not respect the public and their right to know or be informed.

The crew of the Yemeni Satellite TV covered the visit and meetings of Saleh in the three countries in a very disgusting manner, focusing only on protocol meetings without any real informing substance that can be of interest to the viewers. The TV just broadcasted pictures and nonsense reports on the way Saleh was received, lunch meetings, and other general phrases like (bilateral relationship, counterterrorism, the situation in Iraq, Palestine, Somalia tc) which all Yemeni memorize by heart. Even when Presidents Bush and Saleh were briefing the journalists after their meetings, the Yemeni TV did broadcast the pictures and the voice of the reporter who was describing how the media showed interest in the visit of Saleh to the US which is, in fact, untrue.

The visit of Saleh and his meetings he had in these countries, especially the US are important to us as Yemeni citizens. The Yemeni public that was told the visit meant to voice its concerns to the leaders of these countries has the right to know what issues were discussed and the results.

The state-run media described the visit as “successful” but without telling us how. The right to know is a constitutional right which the regime should respect and maintain. The regime should not camouflage and deceive its people about the real issues that have been discussed as this is a totalitarian practice , demonstrating the lack of transparency on the part of the regime.

I think you all remember the attack against the al-Qaeda leader Abu Ali al-Harithi by a US plane in the desert of Marib in 2003. After the operation, the Yemeni authorities said it was a car explosion, but later the US announced the CIA was behind the attack. Last week, the former US ambassador to Yemen Edmund Hull said in al-Jazeera TV that he was monitoring the operation in the field in coordination with the Yemeni authorities. This shows how these officials respect their people and their right to know. Even the Jordanian regime behaved in a very professional way during the latest terrorist attacks in Amman. Just some minutes after the incident, a government official went to brief the media and the other day we saw the second suicide bomber talking on camera. This never takes place with our regime which does everything underground. It lies to and deceives its people without being held accountable. But, I think this behavior makes it lose the respect and trust of the international community too.

The meeting Saleh had with the cabinet members and leaders of the ruling party last Thursday showed that the man came back with a lot of concerns about the situation which, of course, must have been voiced by the officials in the three countries. These are the questions of arms smuggling, security, al-Qaeda prisoners and their fight in Iraq, al-Zindani, corruption and freedom degradation, journalists repression ..etc. Some of these issues the US embassy charge'd affair Nabeel Khory said before Saleh's arrival to the White House were the main issues to be discussed with Saleh.

By and large, I believe it is very important for the media policy makers take the public anger to the media coverage to the latest visit of the president an opportunity to review their policy and know that camouflage or cover-up is no more useful and that the information they hide here comes from Washington or anywhere else in the world. They should live up to the digital moment and realize that transparency is a healthy sign of good governance and democratic regime, will they?

Press Hassling

The continued attacks on journalists show that the people in charge have completely host temper and are ready to invent new tricks to harass journalists and silence them. Now, they have an answer to such attacks which is that pickpockets are the attackers. They have been arrested but no results for the investigations. The last one was that of Nabeel Suba'e. The most recent example in a frightening spate of violence against the press was the attack against Subaie in which pickpockets were held accountable. The regime believes that fostering such a climate of fear and intimidation for media professionals makes it difficult for journalists to work freely. Such attacks condemned by the international community will not , of course, be good for Yemen.