An email from one of Global Integrity’s contributors — apparently censored by government email servers — prompts us to reexamine the “progress” in Yemen’s movement towards open political discourse.
Yemen is a fascinating country when it comes to governance and corruption issues. A 2006 Global Integrity assessment for the country (published in January 2007) rated Yemen overall as “very weak” with a score of just 49, a disturbingly low total for any country. Serious weaknesses were cited in Yemen’s media climate, judicial accountability, rule of law, and procurement practices.
Prior to our 2006 assessment, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) had suspended Yemen’s participation in its Threshold program — small grants designed to stimulate targeted reforms that then qualify the country for the really big MCC grants (MCC “compacts,” in the company’s parlance). The relatively negative 2006 Global Integrity assessment seemed to support that decision, taken in late-2005.
In February 2007, MCC reinstated Yemen to Threshold status, citing major reforms undertaken in the wake of the 2005 suspension — a freer media, judicial reforms, and improved procurement practices were all specifically highlighted by MCC as areas where progress had been made.
I mention this because I received the following email message from one of our Yemeni colleagues this week who worked on the 2006 assessment. He had been trying to email me to congratulate Global Integrity on the release of the Global Integrity Report: 2007, which among other Key Findings warned against confusing cosmetic governance reforms for the real thing. His message, which he agreed I could publish, is below. Will the real Yemen please stand up?
Here is further proof of your conclusions on “Democratically Elected Governments.” This is how Yemen views freedom of speech and the press: I have sent you the following two mesages and both bounced back (the regime is tightening up on all efforts to communicate any opposing contents by literally closing out any flow of news content or
opinion or any organizations or outsourced news item (they even closed out the Yemenportal.net. site)):
Dear Nathaniel Heller:
Thanks for the latest output from Global Integrity. Look forward to participating
in your continuous efforts to instill political sanity in this world.
[omitted for safety]
I just looked into your web site and found the GI website and found your GI report on Yemen for 2006. Would you mind if we delve into the Report on Yemen in a detailed article for the Yemen Times sometime later this week?
[omitted for safety]
I have just learned that they have in fact blocked all my outgoing messages via my mail.yemen.net.ye account, which is a government owned server. I am not sure if it is just me or everyone else, but this has been going on for the last three days. It is unlikely to be a technical error.