US journalist banned from attending Sana’a conference [Archives:2004/702/Local News]

January 12 2004

Munir al-Mawari, an American national journalist of Yemeni origin has been banned by Yemeni authority from attending the Inter-governmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the role of the International Criminal Court for his opinion, despite the fact that the event is for democracy and human rights. Al-Mawari has been accused of being an advocate for Recognition and Normalization with Israel.
He used to work for Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV channel and wrote several articles calling for genuine democracy in the Arab world and criticizing Arab dictators, including Saddam Hussein.
Among the articles he published was one calling for the liberation of Iraq and the resignation of Saddam Hussein prior the war, he published at an Israeli website. This article broke all hell loose and thus he was harshly criticized.
Al-Mawari was interested in attending the democracy conference as one of other journalists invited to attend the event. But the Ministry of Information refused to add his name to the list of participants. Mohammed Shaher, deputy minister of information said that there was no objection against the attendance of al-Mawari and that the minister did not object that at all.
However, he said that “Personally I am against any journalist who normalizes relations with Israel.'' Sources at the ministry said that other officials at the ministry strongly opposed the participation of al-Mawari who is now working for Sawa Radio station in the event under the pretext that he is one of those people who called for attacking Iraq and changing one of the Arab regimes by force.
The sources confirmed that the deputy minister was supporting the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate chairman who lashed out at al-Mawari before the war in Iraq.
Some Arab newspapers quoted some journalists in Yemen as hailing the step taken by the ministry not to permit his participation in the event whom they said would “hurt the feelings of the Yemeni people as well as might cause withdrawal of some big Arab nationalists attending the event as they would not like to see themselves sitting beside someone calling for recognition and normalization with Israel.''
Some Arab writers have criticized the decision of the ministry of information against al-Mawari and described that as “undemocratic and is an indication of the false conception of Yemen's democracy.'' They said that defending the man is defending democracy in the Arab world ruled by tyrannical regimes that can never accept or listen to other opinions.
Yemen Times contacted al-Mawari to comment on the decision but he did not talk and said that his position at his work does not put him in a position to comment on such issues. But, he last year told the press in response to Arabic media brutal harassment against his article that he “would write even on a cowhide so as to express his opinion.” “I am a believer in peace and coexistence between all peoples on earth,” he said.