Inspired by the Gulf Forum for Democratic Political Action held in the capital Sanaa last October, Muhammad al-Yahya told Aljazeera.net on Sunday he had founded the Gulf Press Freedom Organisation (GPFO) to champion journalists’ rights.

“Let’s face it, many managers in the Gulf are running newspapers and other media organisations with little, or sometimes no, journalistic experience – thinking it’s a business like any other. I hope we can be educational in this respect,” he said.

US cooperation

The US National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Yemen is also helping to organise the GPFO initiative.

NDI director, Christine Burkhart, applauded al-Yahya’s initiative.

“One of the saddest things in the Gulf is the total fear of collective action or unionism to protect workers’ rights – and unfortunately we don’t expect to see things change any time soon,” she said.

Both hope the association will promote professional standards among journalists, provide training that will help promote managerial competence and help voiceless societies to be heard in an objective and professional manner.

Other initiatives

Similar regional and international NGOs are already offering to cooperate on various related issues, such as clarifying publication law, copyright and the abolition of rules that restrict press freedoms.

The GPFO will encourage journalists in the region to exchange views on various forms of bad practice around the region, such as exerting undue pressure and harassment.

Founding members are now pushing to have the GPFO registered in a number of countries and hope to set up offices for similar regional NGOs in Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.