Yemen’s beleaguered pressIFJ requests Schroeder’s help [Archives:2005/820/Front Page]

February 28 2005

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has appealed to Gerhard Schroeder, Chancellor of Germany, before his official visit to Yemen during 2-3 March, to interfere and convince the authorities to ease pressure on the besieged Yemeni press.

In a lengthy official letter, the international pro-press freedom organization requested that the chancellor seizes the opportunity to request that President Saleh issue directives to release imprisoned journalists Abdulkareem Al-Khaiwani and limit the ongoing attack on Yemen's press.

Aidan White, general secretary of the world's largest journalists' group, had expressed the international journalist community's serious concern over actions by the Yemeni government “which amount to intimidation and censorship of independent media in particular, the case of Al-Khaiwani, a journalist who is currently imprisoned in Yemen.”

He said that by any standards this is a deplorable campaign of intimidation against journalists and independent opinion in a country where media are making efforts to contribute to democratic reform and development.

He continued to Schroeder, “Your upcoming visit to the Gulf region and the Yemen provides a significant opportunity for dialogue and for discussion with Yemeni leaders about a range of issues – one of which should be the country's commitment to democracy and defence of human rights.

“Your role as Chancellor and as leader of one of the European Union's dynamic and leading democracies gives you the possibility to intervene with President Ali Abdullah Saleh to raise these concerns and to seek the early release of our colleague.”

The IFJ's General Secretary stressed that discussions with the Yemeni authorities will, we hope, deepen bilateral political, economic and cultural ties with Germany and Europe.

He added, “We hope too they will provide an opportunity to seek assurances that Mr Al- Khaiwani is released from jail as soon as possible and that prison sentences handed down to other journalists are immediately set aside.

“We should point out that President Saleh has already promised to abolish jail sentences for press offences leading to optimism among the country's community of journalists that changes of policy over press freedom and independent journalism are indeed possible.”

The statement concluded by mentioning the growing links between Yemeni and European journalists.

“There is a new spirit of solidarity between journalists in Yemen and their European colleagues, including journalists in Germany, so I hope that you will be able to nourish and support this process of co-operation by raising our concerns with the government of Yemen.”