Yemeni journalists object to law amendment [Archives:2005/834/Front Page]

April 18 2005

Mohammed bin Sallam
Sana'a, Apr. 16)The Yemen Journalists Syndicate has sent a letter on April 13 to Prime Minister Abdul-Qadir Ba Jammal, asking him not to put the journalism law on the next Tuesday's Cabinet agenda until journalist community's remarks are taken into account. The law had been prepared by the Information Ministry.

Yemeni Journalists' Chief Mahboub Ali announced last weekend YJS's rejection of the amendments, made by the Information Ministry to the Journalism and Publications Law, and was submitted to the Cabinet without involving YJS.

“We reject any amendments to the law which YJS has not contributed to,” said the Chief Journalist, confirming that he was not privy to these amendments which were made by a secret committee.

“I challenge anyone who says that I attended or participated in such a preparation,” he added.

Mahboub explained that the committee, set up by the government on President's directives to amend Journalism and Publications Law, did not meet even for one time.

Political sources were surprised at the government's move while the echoes of Sa'ada events are still sounding. They deemed it would provoke the journalists who were not party to the amendments, although they mainly concern them.

The YJS's Council had formed a committee to gauge journalistic community's response to the proposed amendments. The committee is chaired by the Chief and has Former Chief Abdul-Bari Tahir as one of its members.

Yet the committee itself has not agreed on a specific alternative journalism draft to replace the one proposed by the Ministry of Information.

Simultaneously, a Ministry source told Saba News Agency that the Ministry of information has finalized drafting amendments to the Law of Press and Publications to help bolster the freedom of speech in the country, last Thursday. And that the new press code would also deal with electronic media.

“The new law confirms importance of press freedom in order to serve interests of society and to offering good environment for media to practice their work well,” said the official, according to the news agency.

The debate around this code is closely observed by the international community in Yemen, and freedom of press supporters around the world. Yemen's press code was established in 1995 and is considered one of the advanced laws in the region. The amendments demands were related to imprisonment of journalists and human rights of media people, so as to allow real freedom of press. In May 2004, the president has publicly announced his intention to create an environment that encourages freedom of press and that the new law does not include imprisonment or detention of the journalists. The fear among media people in Yemen is that penalties would be in financial terms that are so that it cannot be afforded by the journalists, and would land them up in jail anyway.