When journalists lose protection [Archives:2005/847/Opinion]

June 2 2005

By Yasser al-Mayasi
[email protected]

Fifteen years ago, exactly when the Re-unification was achieved in 1990, democracy was reborn and the unity came accompanied by the freedom of press and expression after they were missing for a long time. Since then, Yemen has witnessed a great change in the development of journalism and a vast leap that cannot be denied by anyone.

The independent journalism received a great share of freedom and the journalistic issuances multiplied to reach 142 daily and weekly newspapers and magazines. The Yemeni journalism could move from its restricted role to a broader role with the aim to circulate concerns of the public and give them a greater chance to know about their surroundings.

15 years ago, the press played the role of a communication medium and an ideal type for founding diverse and effective journalism. By virtue of this, Yemen became one of the rarest countries in the Middle East, gaining respect of the international community due to the perceived freedom of press. The press worked for assessing the negative policies followed by the government and the private institutions and contributed in renewing the real democratic practices.

Journalists and the profession of journalism were subjected to different problems and difficulties due to a variety of reasons, most important of which is the absence of clear vision of government officials and social figures of the role of journalism considering it a fourth authority. Journalism should be included within the democratic frame. The absence of professional journalists and specialists led to conveying a negative picture of the journalistic practices and activities, and those who do not abide by morals of the profession spoiled the status of journalism.

The most important thing to be taken for granted is that many journalists were subjected over the last few years to assaults and imprisonments and paid the price for adoring the profession.

Journalist Rahma Hujairah, a woman leader of courageous attitude working for human rights organizations was subjected last week along with her husband Hafid al-Bukari, General Secretary of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) to an outrageous campaign that aimed at dishonoring their life. A newspaper called “al-Bilad” believed to be supported by the government published an indecent and irresponsible article in its first issue. The article published on the front page of the newspaper attempted to dishonor life of the two journalists and defame their reputation with the aim to extort them and put pressure on them to stop their activities. The article was strongly denounced by numerous journalists from different state-run, party-affiliated and private newspapers who also unanimously agreed to not allow such impolite and gypsy conducts that attempt to edge out the role of journalists and expose them without protection.

We must know that though critical of the government and corruption journalists are, such conducts should not be practiced against them to terrorize them to change their view points despite the fact that Yemen accepted democracy and freedom of press as well as the other point of view. So retreating from the actual role of journalism is thought of as a violation of democracy and its reputation.

Charging journalists with treason and dishonoring their profession is a clear failure of those who practice such and the insolvent is the one who resort to pressure and violence at the expense of pretext and logic.

Being journalists, we should cooperate and strive for attaining self-protection. We should also remember that it is the duty and the responsibility of the government parties to protect journalists and provide them with security as well as to halt pressure practiced against them and show respect to the real democracy.

Decision makers should comprehend well the tasks of free journalism and not bother about any criticism. They should know that “Pen” is the weapon of journalism that does not stipulate the practice of violence; it is a weapon to build and not to devastate.