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Société civile, associations et pouvoir local au Yémen

Sarah Ben Nefissa
Maggy Grabundzija
Jean Lambert

Chapter 4: Press and the Journalists’ Syndicate

The Journalists’ Syndicate (1990–2001)

Monica Perini

Entrées d'index

Texte intégral

1As basic elements of civil society, the Yemeni press and the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate are analyzed during the ten years’ period which followed the Reunification of Yemen and the adoption of the law of the freedom of the press (1990).

2The author considers two possible definitions of ‘civil society’. The first one is that of the Italian political theoretician Antonio Gramsci, who defines civil society as the space used by the State to create a consensus and to legitimize the dominant power. The second one, reflecting the Anglo-Saxon approach, defines civil society as a space of dispute created spontaneously between individuals, social groups or classes which associate with each other in different kinds of organizations, in order to influence political power in favor of their objectives.

3The Syndicate of journalists is a particularly interesting object for analysis because it well illustrates these two definitions. Like many other professional associations in Yemen, the Syndicate obtained a real autonomy, especially between 1990 and 1994. However, it suffered from the ever growing attempts of control on the part of the State. These attempts were supported by some members of the Syndicate who grasped at them as an opportunity to promote their own ambitions. Thus, the Syndicate represents a space where political affiliations, objectives of the individuals and personal relations influence debates, alliances and social orientations.

4During the period under study, there emerged two opposite clans: the pro-governmental journalists financially supported by the authorities, and the independent journalists. The brawl between them ended up in virtually paralyzing the Syndicate, as is witnessed by the reports of the Syndicate’s Electoral Congress from 1995 to 1999 and numerous critiques from outside directed towards the disregard of certain election rules. As the result of this, some sixty journalists left the Syndicate.

5The attitude of the Congress following this conflict was only playing into the hands of the pro-governmental clan. Committed to define more clearly than it had been done before the status and the qualifications of ‘the professional journalist’, the Congress chose to place the activity of its journalists under the authority of the Yemeni Constitution. However, it should be noted that the Yemeni Constitution guaranties the freedom of opinion and expression only ‘within the limits of the law’… which is defined by the Ministry of Information.

6The core of the problem is, no doubt, the ambiguity of the Law of the Press, because it allows the Ministry of Information to exercise unlimited powers, according to diverse political circumstances. Thus, in 1999, a year particularly sensible on the political level, there was a considerable growth of legal cases.

7Despite all, the Yemeni Press, whose freedom has been defended by international and non-governmental organizations, remains a public space for political debates. During these ten years, as witness by the referendum campaign of 2001, the plurality of opinions was upheld; this fact allowed of the existence of a counter-weight against the concentration of power. This can be considered as one of the constructive elements of a heterogeneous and dynamic civil society.

8This detailed analysis invites us to regard the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate as a ‘grey zone’ between the definition given by Gramsci and the Anglo-Saxon one. Therefore, it is worth studying.

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