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IFJ Denounces Upholding Ruling against Al-Khaiwani; Several Newspapers Suffer Hard Financial Situation

  Written By:  Moneer Al-Omari (YEMEN POST STAFF) 
  Article Date:
February 02, 2009



In its recent release, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) denounced the Yemeni Appeal Court's ruling which confirmed the conviction of award-winning journalist Abdul Karim Al-Khaiwani for disseminating anti-government propaganda.

"This shocking decision is a terrible indictment of the Yemeni justice system," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "Al-Khaiwani was pardoned by the Yemeni Head of state and given assurances by senior justice officials that the case against him based on spurious charges was closed."

On January 26, the Yemeni Court of Appeal upheld the first-instance verdict against Al-Khaiwani, accusing him of engagement in anti-government propaganda with the intention of undermining the army's morale, and causing social unrest.

This is the first time Al Khaiwani, former editor of the online magazine Al-Shoura and prior to that the Al-Shoura Newspaper, stands trial as he has faced different trials over publication issues and was jailed several times.

Last year, Al-Khaiwani won the prestigious Amnesty International 2008 "Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat", following his arrest and detention for allegedly conspiring with Houthi rebels fighting the Yemeni government in 2007.

He was released then under President Saleh's pardon. He was sentenced in June 9, 2008 to six years in prison, after the renewal of Sa'ada war between Houthi followers and the army.

According to IFJ, the prosecution did not provide any explanation of the crime that he had allegedly committed beyond the general charges of "terrorism."

The IFJ called also for reviewing the case and providing evidence that can be tested in open court. 

Though Al-Khaiwani was pardoned by the Yemeni President in September 2008, the court resumed his trial with several others.

Receiving the Amnesty International's Award on behalf of Khaiwani, Boumelha paid tribute to his contribution to journalism saying "This award should go further than supporting the steadfastness and courage of one journalist battling against his tormentors. It should also be a recognition through him of all the struggles and all the sacrifices made by many journalists and others to advance freedom, justice, democracy and human rights in Yemen and the rest of the Arab World."

The IFJ also expressed its concern over the new ruling which might give authorities a pretext to control Al-Khaiwani's life and restrict his freedom to travel or work. 

Last November, Al-Khaiwani was denied the right to leave for London to attend the ceremony organized by Amnesty International UK to honor several journalists including him for their heroic work under threats. 

In related news, preparations are underway for electing the new head of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) and other board members. Several journalists have bid for the post of the head and the candidacy is heated when both the ruling party and opposition parties are working for assuming this post and other leading posts.

With the competition heating between the ruling party and opposition parties over assuming the syndicate's posts, several newspapers suffer a hard financial crisis due to the rise of paper prices and the absence of fair advertising policies.

This applies to unofficial and independent newspapers, that, prompted by the increase of paper prices and printing costs, to raise their prices at 20 to 40 percent. Among these papers are Al-Nida, Al-Masdar and Al-Share' as well as state-run papers like Al-Thawra, 14 October and Al-Jumhuriah. 

The increase of prices has also forced some papers to resort to high ranking officials or influential businessmen to avoid the potential economic failure, after pledging not to write about them [officials or businessmen].