Written By: Zaid al-Alaya’a & Kawkab al-Thaibani
Article Date: Jul 29, 2007 - 1:28:49 AM
With pens in hand the protestors demand justice and freedom. They say they will continue protesting untill their demands are met.
For the 11th week in a row, journalists gathered in Sana’a’s Freedom Square to demand a freer press. They also demanded that a list be made of all of the enemies of freedom of the press, and called on all freedom fighters to join their struggle for an unrestricted media. Many Parliament members attended the protest this week to show their support of journalists. They included: Mansoor al-Zindani, Fuad Dahabah, Sultan al-Sam’ai, Ali Hussein al-Ansi, Mofadhel Ismael Ghaleb and others.
“We are ready and willing to go on demonstration in thousands to tell enemies of freedom that our freedom is more important and valuable than bread, more than our work,” said al-Zindani. Many voices joined his. “Yemeni people do understand the importance of freedom,” said al-Zindani, “and we are going to sacrifice all what we have for freedom. Those who are present here to convey what we say in here to the people in charge have to be accurate and we are not backing off from our position. We want freedom for the press.
“Those who are trying to make the press a mocking profession will not succeed, freedom has doors and we will go through one in our continued, peaceful demonstrations,” said al-Zindani who calls the government a government of “ price doses and bara (a Yemeni dance with jambias).” He urged people not to change the independent media into a mockery, like the state broadcast and print media. The government in Yemen has to deal with the changes that the country is witnessing in the field of media, and to know that Yemenis will not accept a curtailed freedom, said al-Zindani.
Foad Dahabah, another MP, called for an investigation of the violence that erupted at last week’s demonstration. Several journalists were attacked at that demonstration. Dahabah demanded the questioning of the Minister of the Interior. “The government has to create a fence of justice around the country and the society, and must come to terms with the public or let them look for another government,” said Dahabah He called on the Prime Minister to apprehend those who were behind the attacks at the last demonstration, and to have them brought to justice.
The justifications of the information minister in shutting down some websites and SMS service, like when he said he was simply carrying out constitutional and legal texts is not right, said Dahabah. “We are demonstrating because we respect the law and the constitution and we are demanding our right, it is not a grant,” said Dahabah, who proposed in Monday’s session to the vice president of the Parliament that a committee be formed to investigate Wednesday’s attacks, but got no response. Last Monday when the information minister was in the Parliament, he promised that in less than six months he will come up with a new version of the Press Law, said Dahabah. The law, which was first issued 1990, has never been amended.
The Parliament earlier this week said that the ministry has no right to shut down SMS news services. So these providers are now free to send out SMS news briefs. Then, he criticized the government. “This unjust government has two options—whether to let the people all alone do what they want, or let the people look for other government,” said Dahabah. “It is not enough what people suffer—they are poor. People do not find food to eat. It is not enough the jails of the Political Security, National Security, the immigration office, sheikhs. “Thanks to the female protesters who defend me from the attackers, or I would be one of the victims in this square,” he said.
“Those protesters ask you [the president] and the Prime Minster to punish the attackers. We [the protesters] and you [the president] will stand in front of God,” said Dahabah. The head of Women Journalists Without Chains, Tawkel Karman, who launched the demonstrations, said that they will continue until the General People’s Congress fulfills its electoral program that allows for pluralism in media, print, broadcast and television. She thanked the Parliament for making the government release the suspended websites, and for releasing the news services of Al-Sahwa Mobile and Nass Mobile. She also called on the Ministry of Information to fix the shortfalls in its law that justifies the ways they deal with free press.
The injured protesters stepped up to speak about their experiences in the last protest. “What had happened last week is an obvious infringement to the Constitution,” said Saleem Allawo, a member of Hood, who was beaten up during the last protest. Allawo stood up on one low wall in front of the Cabinet building. “Many people were beating me up when they saw a camera with me, and they also try to drag me into a car. They are from the political security, I assume,” said Abdul-Salam al-Mawary, a member in WJWC. The Ministry of the Interior has denied that people from security bodies were involved in the attacks on protestors.
“My son asked me ‘why you are beaten up dad?’ and I replied ‘I am beaten up today, to prevent you from being hit tomorrow,” said Fouad al-Himyari, a lawyer, who was also beaten up by the attackers last week. The announcer at the protest, Najeeb al-Yafei’ei, mocked the national Yemeni television channel. “It is ironical that the national TV went to cover the celebration next to us. But Allah with us, al-Jazeera, and al-Arabya channels are with us,” he said. “But, unfortunately, we don’t have visual media.
Fortune tellers have satellite channels and we cannot.” People from a variety of political parties were in attendance. “I wondered when I heard that you hold these protests peacefully. But when the acts of the last week took place, I say to myself ‘the government comes to its usual nature,” said Jawhara Hamoud, a member in the Yemeni Socialist Party. “I cheer all those protesters who stand in front of those hypocrites, who support the government that only support suppression.”
Then Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani, the journalist who was put in jail on the suspicion of the ‘spreading the views of al-Houthis, and who stayed in prison for 31 days, was recently released on bail. When he first showed up, many hurried to greet him, and also there was a warm applause. “This place makes a real proof that we are, despite of all the frustrating environment, walking through the real democracy,” said al-Khaiwani. “The peaceful struggle is the only way to achieve this.”
The Yemeni government asks the other neighboring countries to create policies like its own, meanwhile it blocks the news websites and sends people to beat up the peaceful protesters, Allawo said. Some fear that the violence of last week has frightened some would-be protestors away. “Unfortunately, the presence of women has decreased, due to the attack that had happened last week,” said Karman. “The bullies scared the Quareer.” A quareer is a very delicate and precious vase. The prophet Mohamed used this word to refer to women and how precious they are.
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