The IFJ Welcomes Commitment of Yemen to Press Freedom, Access to Information and Open Government

The International Federation

of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed fresh pledges from the Yemeni President Ali

Abdullah Saleh that press freedom in Yemen will be guaranteed in the draft of

the new broadcast law which, when passed, will permit independent broadcast media

to be set up. President Saleh also supported the right of journalists to access

information and asked the government to move faster in issuing licenses for new

and suspended newspapers.  

The president was speaking to

the Yemeni journalists at the opening of the Fourth Congress of the Yemeni

Journalists Syndicate in Sana

yesterday held under the title "To Defend Journalists Rights and Press

Freedom". In an impressive show of strength and solidarity, more than 1000

participants have gathered in the Expo

Center in the Yemeni capital Sana to set their union's

agenda for the next four years; they will also elect a new leadership for the

YJS.  Jim Boumelha, the IFJ president, is

also attending the congress in a show of support from the world journalists'

community.

"Press freedom, open

government and access to information are vital ingredients for every

journalist," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ president. "We welcome the commitment of

the president of Yemen

to these principles. However, there is still hard work to be done for this to

have a positive impact on the work of Yemeni journalists and we'll be

supporting our colleagues all the way."

For

the last few years, the YJS campaigned against the precarious conditions in

which journalists were subjected to politicised criminal charges and censorship from government officials. Despite

positive development where civil society organisations have expanded and independent newspapers established, frequent severe

actions continue to be taken by the Yemeni authorities against journalists and

media in violation of Yemen's

international commitments.

In addition to the current

restriction on press freedom in Yemen,

most journalists work in intolerable conditions, poor health and social

benefits and with very little access to professional training. The current

congress which will last three days will elect a new leadership with a mandate

and the backing to tackle these challenges. Some 99 candidates are standing for

election to the board of the syndicate reflecting a new fighting spirit within the union.

Boumelha in his speech urged

the president to stand by the YJS in its long campaign to de-criminalise press

offences. The union had proposed amendments to the press and publication law

intended to guarantee the rights of journalists working in print media. "Mr. President,

I urge you to support our colleagues in the YJS and its efforts to amend the

media law so there will be no more journalists imprisoned because of their work,"

he said.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh

also responded to the call by

Boumelha that the decision taken by the Special Criminal Court on Terrorism to

confirm the 6-year jail term against journalist Abdul Karim Al Khaiwani be cancelled.

Ali Saleh made a firm promise that he will enforce his pardon forthwith and

ensure that the case is closed.

Boumelha told the journalists: "We share

your horror and outrage at the way colleagues here in Yemen have been

treated - we know about your precarious conditions, the politicized criminal

charges and the censorship you face often enough."
                                                                                                                   
In tribute to the commitment of the YJS and its

members he added, "I have no doubt that your union has been and will always be at

the centre of the fight for social justice and professional rights in

journalism. You have shown a fighting trade union spirit which is a real model

for our unions in the region."

 

For

more information contact the IFJ at: + 32 2 235 2207

IFJ

represent more than 600,000 journalists in 123 counties around the world.