Yemeni Journalists Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea [Archives:2001/22/Focus]

May 28 2001
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Tawfeeq Al-Sharaabi
Yemen times
It goes without saying that press is one of the most essential pillars of any developing democracy. Journalists, then, hold a pivotal position since they are the key factors in this field. Their importance stems from the great mission they serve. They are the watchdogs of the people and the voice of the voiceless. They are the defenders of rights and freedoms. They work with the society as a whole. They work with the people in power as well as with the common man in the street. They can contribute a lot in the decision making process as they reflect a realistic picture of the affairs in society. Furthermore, they keep a check on the people in power by objectively reporting everything to the public.
It is a matter of pride that journalists do this admirable job with passion and professionalism. However, it is only legitimate that these professionals have rights and privileges too. They are human beings with needs to fulfill. They have worries and concerns. If those responsible to defend rights and relieve suppression are deprived of rights and are suppressed themselves, I wonder how they can fulfill their dreams, pursue their goals, and serve their mission!!
Journalists are suffering a great deal because of many reasons, the most outstanding of which are the nominal salaries paid to them, hard economic conditions and the trivial and daunting regulations imposed on them by the press establishments. The journalists’ cadre has been a long-awaited dream to improve their conditions and protect their rights. Journalists have been receiving assurances from the previous government and the new government as well. However, so far we have seen no silver lining in the sky to make this come true.
Journalism Is a Mission Not a Career:
Journalism in letter and spirit is a mission served and not a career taken up. It is so because it deals with supreme principles and restores the masses’ rights. Journalists deal with issues of major concern to the public which makes them liable to harassment, torture, suppression, prison, etc. Violations are happening all the time. However, they have never been investigated by the authorities. We have never heard of a case in which a journalist’s honor is vindicated after being put in question.
Yemeni Journalists’ Lost Identity:
Journalists in Yemen are leading a life of suffering and misfortune. The state of insecurity and instability obviously reflects itself in the work they do. Suppression of journalists is not restricted to those who find their work against their interests. Rather, they are sometimes suppressed even within the press establishments. Journalists working with the official press establishments are bounded by the guidelines of the authorities. They are doing nothing but paying lip service to the agenda of the government. They can’t uncover the misdeeds of corrupt officials. Therefore, they fail to serve the mission. Again, journalists working for partisan newspapers are restricted by the ideologies and guidelines of the parties. They propagate and lavishly praise their leaders and their activities which again goes against them as a responsible press. Besides being poorly paid, they have to abide by these regulations, otherwise they will be fired.
Journalists working for independent newspapers are none the better. They, too, suffer from the same predicaments. They are poorly paid and restricted by bizarre rules and regulations. This state of insecurity and instability makes them unable to manifest their merits to the fullest.
These worries and concerns are deeply felt and shared by most of my colleagues working in the field of journalism.
Role of Yemeni Journalists Syndicate:
The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate has a lot to do in this regard. It has to put an end to this harassment from the government and the press establishments as well. It has to pursue endorsing the journalists’ cadre ensuring their rights and duties. It also has to put an end to the exploitation of the journalists. Press establishments have to sign contracts with journalists to protect their rights and offer them decent pay. Journalists should be paid commensurate with their expertise and professionalism. It has to support journalists who are assaulted or suppressed ensuring that they are re-instated. Its role should not be restricted to publishing condemning reports indicating cases of violations only. Will these dreams come true?! I hope so.