That is Who We Are! [Archives:2001/05/Viewpoint]

January 29 2001

This time, I decided not only to answer the question personally, but also to publish the answer on this editorial column for everyone to read. Let me be transparent, straightforward and precise in my answer.
First of all, Yemen Times is an independent newspaper, which delivers information as it is: facts, realities, and stories from life. We bring everything plain, with no decorations or exaggerations. Hence, when our reader reads a certain story, he/she would realize that it was precisely the way it happened. I don’t say we don’t commit mistakes, but if there are any mistakes, then they are unintentional and do not express any partiality in the story.
So, if there is a story of a kidnapping incident, or an explosion, or a murder, etc., we will be the first to report it as it is and show all the numbers and facts openly and without the consideration of the consequences.
Now, if there is a story about a cleaning campaign in Haddah Street, or officials starting to serve people well, or about the awakening of the Central Organization for Control and Auditing, fullfiling its duties to look into corrupt officials etc., don’t expect us to cover this. Why? Because this is what is supposed to be happening. We cannot go on simply saying that this road has been cleaned, that project has been completed, or this school has been constructed. This is what is supposed to be done, and this is not what a journalist is supposed to be covering.
Remembering that the true journalist’s role is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, we should always look after what is ‘not’ ordinary or routine. Our role is to report about the oppression that this citizen went through, about that corrupt official who has been eating away our resources for so long, about the breaking stories of murder, kidnapping, explosions, etc.. Our role is not passive, it is objective.
This still doesn’t mean that we always report issues that are negative. By ‘not ordinary’, I never mean to say ‘negative’. The discovery of a new oil field is something exceptional and should be covered. The capturing of the long sought-after culprit in an extreme case like the USS Cole incident is a ‘positive’ story that we will never delay in publishing because it is worth publishing.
Hence, the interception that we love to publish what is ‘negative’ is simply wrong. We only publish what is worth publishing, negative or positive.
On the other hand, I really feel frustrated when a Yemeni tells me that we should write what is good so that the foreigner would get a good impression about Yemen.
For all that think this way I say, “If I am to write what is good only, foreigners would be the first to hate me.” This is not what they or any other reader, local or Arab, wants. What they want is to know the truth from a totally independent stand. And if it will give a bad impression to say that corruption is devastating our economy, or if this issue’s last page story about the poor little girl would frustrate a foreigner reading the story on the plane heading to Sanaa, and make him think bad about our country, and possibly change his mind about coming to Yemen, then I believe that this person is not a friend of our country and should not be here in the first place. A person who loves Yemen should be eager to know its problems, should understand its people’s sufferings, should not only listen to the government and forget the people, but rather, he or she should seek the truth, the whole truth. A person who appreciates our effort to bring all the miseries of the public, which are happening every day, on our front or last page should be respected. He should be honored because he respects our democracy and understands that our democracy enables us to speak up loudly about our pain and sufferings, and never think of the consequences.
I know that there are many people who respect our stand and understand why we are doing what we are doing. To them and to the ones that are still not convinced by what I say, I repeat: “That is who we are, and that is who we will stay!”