Time to Interfere [Archives:2000/29/Viewpoint]

July 17 2000

Anger, frustration, outrage, and disappointment. All these were felt by journalists everywhere at once after the imprisonment of Al-Yusufi, Chief Editor of Al-Thaqafia newspaper for publishing the 25-year old story, whose writer died more than 20 years ago.
The verdict raised a lot of concern about the true dimensions of curtailment of press freedom in Yemen. Several world wide organizations condemned this verdict, which in itself was a shameful episode in the press sector in Yemen.
Not all responses were negative in relation to this issue. The Minister of Information, Al-Akwa’a deserved to be thanked for his courageous stand beside the newspaper and its editor in one of the most brutal attacks against an editor ever heard of. The preachers in mosques however, infuriated ever his release, and insulted the Minister for his supportive stand to the imprisoned editor, as he ordered his release from prison. “We condemn Al-Yusufi, and all of whom support or stand by him,” said one of the preachers. The minister’s firm stand for Al-Yusufi, and his threat to submit his resignation in case Al-Yusufi was not released evoked respect and appreciation from journalists in Yemen and global level. We, the journalists, do need such strong stance from the government. This vindicate our stand and motivates us further, and gives us a push towards working harder with courage and without fear. We, journalists, and the ministry, are all in the same boat. We all work in the information sector. Our goal is to provide information and deliver it accurately. Our solidarity would definitely be a source of strength for all of us, not only for the journalists.
In the mean time, I believe that it is high time the President himself interfered. He should stop this unjustified campaign against Al-Yusufi in mosques, and other Islamic institutions. He did not publish something new. He published a story written 25 years ago entitled “Sanaa, an Open City” by author Mohamed Abdulwali, who died in 1980. The story was even broadcast as a series in the state-run radio channel. Journalists and lawyers everywhere were disgusted with the action of putting Al-Yusufi on trial, and in prison for something he didn’t write.
Ridiculous is ridiculous, and it is about time that President Saleh stood against these campaigns, and showed that Yemen cannot be dragged back from the road of democracy, and freedom of press. Protests have come from regional organizations, such as the Cairo-based Arab Journalist General Union, and from international spheres such as by the New York-based Journalists Protecting Committee. All of the voices are condemning this action, which resulted in the defiling of the reputation of Yemen as a country on its way to consolidate a democratic system.
It is in the hands of the president to stop this mess form continuing and I believe he will do the right thing. Walid Al-Saqqaf
Chief Editor