Yemen Times, difficult start and continual success [Archives:2006/1002/Opinion]

November 27 2006

Emad Al-Saqqaf
Last week coincided with issuance of edition 1,000 of the Yemen Times newspaper. A beautiful feeling has overcome me mingled with an indefinite happiness at the time I was searching through my memory and going back to the very beginnings of the newspaper and the anxieties.

Many tasks and duties accompanied the first moments of launching the newspaper. We joined forces with the pioneer of the Yemeni press Dr. Abdulaziz al-Saqqaf in the task of hardships and pains, during which we lived very difficult days, but we learnt that inevitability action develops into progress and service of the homeland and the people. His belief was that the value of the human is measured with what he affects of positive change in the society and the homeland and the amount of service he offers to humanity.

The newspaper started in an instable situation and difficult economic and political circumstances and a limited horizon of democratic margin. As the press had not been granted its rights concerning human rights and the right to expression, the newspaper went on while facing painful obstacles precluding it from performing its role. At first there were problems covering news stories and free movement to the government practicing of various types of censorship; chains, prevention of printing and distribution and threats and harassments. Sometimes the founder of the newspaper was taken away with his eyes covered and left alone in a far deserted place.

The newspaper founder had sowed courage in our souls by those challenges and the characteristics the founder possessed. He deepened in us the fight for the sake of rights and democracy.

I remember that in 1995 the newspaper published a front-paged news story reporting that the political security kidnapped and tortured a prominent writer and politician. The news story was supported with a picture and its headline was written in Arabic. The editor-in-chief had expected we would be prevented from printing that edition and he left for Taiz for an urgent task and thus he entrusted me with being in charge of printing and distribution of the issue. After the printing was finished I was prevented from distributing copies. I had given the editor-in-chief a promise the issue would be on newsstands for people to read. I used all possible ways to get the copies and distribute them and to send them to all governorates. But the political security organization detained the editor-in-chief in Taiz and threats began to be sent to me that I would be “physically liquidated.” Therefore, I stayed locked inside the newspaper basement for a full day. We had learnt to believe that rights are not gained by force.

The newspaper enjoyed full independence and never put itself under the umbrella of any political party or side, unlike many of independent newspapers that were linked to a certain political current or party. It was the policy of its founder: Full independence, preferring his affiliation to the homeland and refusing all temptations of authority and allurements of the left and the right.

I still remember his words, “Yemen Times will not be one of the voices of the authority or an instrument in the hands of the opposition.” The Yemen Times represents the voice of fact and creates a high fortress of freedom and justice.

When the newspaper lost its founder it didn't replace its principles or the national project. He remains dwelling inside us and his ambitions are torches illuminating the paths of the coming life. It quite sufficient that he has left for us the love for all the civil society.

Yemen Times has remained a message of the homeland's renascence and promoter of positive change in society. It has worked for laying foundations of democracy and freedom and exposed corruption in addition to criticizing the negatives courageously and with credibility and clarity. It calls for building the state of modern Yemen. The newspaper carried on its shoulders the concerns of human rights in Yemen and helped to create an awareness of rights. It was the first publication to disclose the existence of prisons owned by sheikhs and worked for the release of many prisoners and moving juvenile prisoners to reformatories and orphanages. The newspaper plays a great role in educating on the rights of the woman and her participation in the political life. As part of its support in that field the newspaper announced, in 1997, its willingness to finance any woman who needs funding for her electoral campaign on condition she was independent.

With Nadia Abdulaziz al-Saqqaf's assumption of the post of editor-in-chief, the Yemen Times presents a good example on progress of the Yemeni woman with her capability of leading an important establishment. This move is a pride for the newspaper's staff and Yemeni woman.

No doubt the newspaper has contributed to serving Yemen's cultural action as Yemen's window on the world and the world window on Yemen. Through it the others have known about our history, heritage, culture and civilization. And through it the world knew how the Yemenis live and how they think.

Today Yemen Times remains a pioneering newspaper possessing all components of free press and it is taking confident steps forward and taking the lead so strongly.

We have the right to be proud and entertain the taste of success that we have wrung out of concern during the nights and fatigued of days and years. It is also a pride for the reader, wherever he or she is, who forms the more spectacular extension of this glory.

Emad Al-Saqqaf is a Yemeni journalist and Yemen Times' Taiz buearu chief.