The Right to Know is also a Human Right [Archives:2001/06/Viewpoint]

February 5 2001

In a country like ours, where illiteracy rates are among the highest in the world, where poverty is dominating the scene everywhere, and where most of the population is in less civilized rural areas rather than cities, we should not be surprised when we dont know our own rights.
Human rights, which has a become propaganda phrase used by governments, not only in Yemen, but all over the world, is widely misunderstood and not well defined in Yemen as well as in many third world countries.
A clear indication of the confusion in understanding human rights is thinking that the public is not eligible to get all the information the government hides or does not reveal. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the right to know is among the most essential human rights that must be granted to all humans. In other words that signed the UDHR should not think that it is blessing its people by letting them know what is going on, but it should rather realize that its duty is to let them know, unless it was insincere and uncommitted when it signed the UDHR.
The right to know means that whatever news about kidnapping incidents, explosions, military confrontations, statistics, international deals, and many of the other positive or negative developments should be revealed to the public without any censorship.
This also applies to all governments in all countries. One cannot deny that the USA holds one of the most decent records of human rights, including the right to know. It is so obvious that a county which could have its presidents interrogation broadcasted to millions worldwide is surely by far better than others.
However, what is happening in Yemen is quite disappointing. Not only are the authorities so self-restrained in providing information, especially about critical incidents, but many of them limit the sources that independent news reporters and newspaper could get input from. Add to that the pressure that is exerted on newspapers through lawsuits and trials, the latest that of Al-Shumou. All of this serves as a conclusion that the right to know is still not granted to the Yemeni public. It is not even an exaggeration if I say that officials themselves dont see it as a human right and cannot imagine that it could be a human right.
We still have a long struggle before we make sure our authorities understands the true meaning of human rights, and it would require even a longer and more exhausting strife before they fulfill them. But no matter what happens, we are still willing to wait until the very end.