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Journalists angered by restrictions imposed on the media in Yemen are naming names. At a protest Tuesday, they presented a list of the biggest violators of press freedoms and journalists in Yemen since 2005. The demonstration in Sana’a’s Freedom Square was the 14th weekly demonstration journalists have held to demand greater press freedoms.
According to the list provided by Women Journalists Without Chains, a group organizing the protests, the worst on the list is National Security, with 96 breaches, making up 27.82 percent of the violations.
The second is the Ministry of Information, with 95 violations, at 27.53 percent.
The third is the Ministry of Interior, with 54 violations, making up 15.65 percent of violations.
In fourth place is the Political Security Office, having 45 violations and, lastly, the Military Guidance Unit is accused of 11 violations.
These statistics were based on reports by Women Journalists Without Chains, with help from statistics from Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, the US State Department, and the Amman Center for Human Rights.
At the 14th sit-in, organized by the Civil Society Alliance Omam, several speeches and poems were recited.
“The authorities are not properly handling the peaceful sit-ins, but rather they are violent, with demonstrators who are asking for basic rights,” said Aidroos al-Naqib, an MP and member in the media and culture committee in the Parliament.
“Civil and peaceful sit-ins are the best way to ask for rights. They are better and more successful than parties meetings,” said Mufadhel al-Abarah, an MP who criticized the absence of MP leadership of political parties and called for support for journalists in this issue.
The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate also expressed its great support for the journalists' cause, and criticized the government's monopoly on visual and audio media. “The right to have private visual and audio media is not only a right for journalists, but it a constitutional right for anybody who can and wants to invest in this field,” said Saeed Thabit, the first deputy of the YJS, who said that having private media of all sorts is an economic right for all individuals and organizations in this country.
Thabit also criticized people in charge, who do not realize the importance of multimedia in this era. “We have changed, and will continue to ask for the ownership of visual and audio media,” he said.
He concluded his speech by expressing his solidarity with WJWC in its right to have its SMS service back in business.
This list of press freedom violators was not an act of vengeance from anybody, but came rather to shed light on the violators as a means to stop violations and breaches of press freedom, said Tawakkol Karman, head of WJWC.
“This is a direct call and appeal for strategic reforms to the sides mentioned to abide by the law and constitution, the two guards of freedoms and rights,” said Karman, who added that the blacklist will be an annual tradition carried out by the WJWC.
“I personally respect the organization of WJWC and the way it objects in a very civil way against the closing of its SMS service,” said Sakhr al-Wajeeh, MP and head of the Parliamentarians Against Corruption.
When the report by the media and cultural committee was discussed in the Parliament earlier last month, the majority of MPs recommended that the government bring back all SMS news services and news websites that were closed, said al-Wajeeh. Since these new services are not mentioned in the Press Law of 1990, they were supposed to be kept in business until a law was made to regulate them. All of them are back in business except for Bilakoyood, which belongs to WJWC.
“The government closed the web sites and SMS services of some organizations and parties without an order to the judicial authority, which was wrong. And if the WJWC violated any sort of legislation and hurt a public interest, the information ministry was supposed to seek refuge from the judicial authority,” said al-Wajeeh.
“It is surprising that the government put back all services except that of the WJWC, as if it implied that any one who will object peacefully will be profiled. It is natural that the WJWC expresses its opinion the way it does and if the sides that were blacklisted are bothered, they have to prove the WJWC wrong,” said al-Wajeeh.
“I am not well-informed about the criteria that the WJWC used to make this list, but I think it is a bit close to reality because I know how our security forces oppress freedoms,” said al-Naqib, who considered the journalists’ sit-ins as a moment of strife between freedoms and the oppression by the authorities.
A country that respects the right of its citizens is supposed to open all the doors for freedom of expression and doesn’t wait for a law to regulate these freedoms, he said. “For the minister of information to say that he will close the websites and SMS services until there is a law is so ridiculous, it is legally-irrational,” said al-Naqib.
The Yemen Observer tried to call the Political Security Office and National Security, but got no response from them.