Urgent Issues Before the Information Minister [Archives:2001/17/Focus]

April 23 2001

Jalal al-Sharaabi
Yemen Times
Appointment of Mr. Hussain Daifallah al-Uwadhi as the Information Minister is a great honor for journalism and journalists. It will usher in a new era of getting rid of drawbacks shrouding the media in general.
There are many issues in store for Information Minister al-Uwadhi pertaining to improving the cadre’s performance and the official media means available at present.
It is not at all reasonable to have eight radio stations, two TV channels and official media “Thawrah, Jomhoriah, 14 October, repeat the same old story of news items. Media have to play a more effective role to produce new and live materials. The source should not be manipulated and restricted to one agency which produces shallow, unmeaningful news items.
The Weekly 14 October, the official Newspaper, prints 3000 copies according to the official statistics. However, most of the issues are kept on piles as it is not so much read, especially as statistics indicate that the newspaper is not distributed in Taiz, Hodeidah, Hajah, Sa’adah. Does not this establishment require re-consideration especially as it has 500 employees working for it. It should be activated to make use of its potential resources.
An option to consider is to change the newspaper to a daily or weekly sports newspaper. The establishment should be utilized to publish an economic and tourist newspaper to propagate tourism and promote investment within the country in general and in the free zone and free market in Aden in particular.
Another important issue is to publish an official newspaper in English, addressing official news items. It is scandalous that after 11 years of freedom of the press and democracy, the official sources lack the means to publish a paper in English. An official newspaper dealing with women’s issues is another crucial issue.
The new Minister has to support independent newspapers and encourage their publication if he has to back up freedom of the press. If that is achieved, the Ministry will become a catalyst for change rather than be a source of harassment filing cases against newspapers every now and then. For example, al-Jumhoriah newspaper can be transformed to a great cultural newspaper, reporting about literary seminars and conferences.
I am sure that Mr. al-Uwadhi will be up to the expectations in his new post. He has been a journalist since his adolescence. His experience was remarkably manifest during his term in office in Saba News Agency. He could make laudable strides in the press work in the agency after years of stagnancy.
A top priority is to be given to the journalists’ cadre which has remained a major headache for journalists.
No doubt there are many cases still pending in courts. The Information Ministry played a key role in filing these cases and swayed from its main role as a free journalism supporter.
The profession has to be cleared from all the meddlers and those who are no more active or energetic. New young cadre who possess the faculties to produce strong and healthy journalism are to be introduced so as to help move the wheel of development in the country.
Finally, it would be reasonable to establish a nation-wide general unit for reports. The unit is to produce press reports to local or even foreign media in accordance with the fundamentals of journalism. The unit is also to gather statistics and data on all important issues.
Lots of issues are kept in store for the new Minister al-Uwadhi. No doubt they are complicated and are in need of an agenda of action to install the proper changes. Time is also very short, not more than one year and a half. So will the new Minister be up to our expectations and aspirations? We do hope so.