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'
"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."
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
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,"
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."
more information contact the IFJ at: + 32 2 235 2207
represent more than 600,000 journalists in 123 counties around the world.