The expensive cost of freedom [Archives:2005/852/Opinion]

June 20 2005

Journalists are facing unprecedented measures of suppression, since the unification in 1990, the time when multi party and free press started.

During the past 15 years of unity, the journalists have faced illegal detentions for criticisms of government officals, especially the President of the Republic, or the Saudis. Saudi authorities think that it happens by consent of Yemeni authorities.

The socialist party was driven out of power following its defeat on the hands of the armed forces loyal to the president Ali Abdullah Saleh in the1994 war. This was a set back to modernity forces which used to find shelter under the umbrella of the socialist party. The tribal and traditional Islamic groups took refuge under the People General Congress. Appeals and external pressure increased on the President to lift restrictions on freedom of publication and permit the ownership of private radio and television stations. On top of these demands were the cancellation of detention in press cases. Prior to his participation in the G8 summit and among a few of the middle east partners in the war against terror, the President, ordered the ministry of information to amend the press and publication law to cater for the cancellation of detention of journalists, so as to widen the scope of press liberty.

A few weeks following this incident, a primary court imprisoned the chief editor of an opposition newspaper Al-shoura for a year. It was accused of publishing articles thought to be supporting the insurgent Zaidi cleric Hussein Al-houthi, who was later killed in September. Shortly after that, there was also a conviction against Abdulkreem Sabra, chief editor of al-Huriah newspaper. There was also a prison conviction against Abdulgawi Al-gobati for publishing an article, which the judge considered to be critical to the President. The opposition has little trust in the formal declarations. What happened shows that the executive powers have a double slandered address for the Europeans and USA, that contradicts what happens inside. The new draft law of journalism, prepared by the Ministry of Information, confirmed the anxieties of journalists. It seems to be worst than the previous one.

The intelligence fabricated a case against the left wing opposition writer Abdul-Rahim Muhsin. Two members of the intelligence intercepted his car, and led him to the Haja prison. They put a bottle of wine on his back seat and a formal report was published through the formal news agency that he was found driving his car while he was drunk. Some leaders in the ruling party say that the report is false. They assure that he was detained because of his writings. The authorities wanted to terrorize the opposition by accusing them of moral cases, in a traditional community, a thing that will shun them.

It is not only the revival of the security measures before the unity that bothers the opposition, those measures went beyond that, when a paper affiliated to the ruling party, which published only its zero issue, accused a female journalist of adultery and immoral practices. Reactions are still going on in denouncing this accusation and consolidating the journalist, the journalists demand a penal punishment against the newspaper, but the prosecution is still procrastinating in submitting the case to the court

If those who are responsible are not tried, the harmful effect of the case will continue. In a traditional community as Yemen, it will affect all females in political and journalism field. This matter will greatly frustrate western efforts to widen female participation in decision-making.