Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Kaufman Questions State Department Officials on U.S. Policy toward Yemen

Senator highlights need for engaging Yemeni civil society, promoting a free press, and supporting public diplomacy

January 20, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC – At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday entitled “Yemen: Confronting Al Qaeda, Preventing State Failure,” Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE) questioned State Department Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin about the Obama administration’s strategy in Yemen.  Specifically, Kaufman highlighted the importance of a policy that extends beyond the military and emphas press freedom, good governance, public diplomacy, and partnering with civil society.

During the hearing, Kaufman asked Feltman what the administration was doing to support a free press in Yemen, emphasizing that Yemen had been downgraded in Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World Report from “Partly Free” in 2009 to “Not Free” in 2010.  In response, Feltman detailed the administration’s ongoing efforts to train journalists and to encourage the Yemeni parliament to pass laws to protect independent media.

Kaufman stressed that a free media is essential to a free society, particularly in advance of Yemen’s upcoming parliamentary elections. “Too often we equate holding elections with democracy, but we do not have democracy without a free press," he said. “If there is lack of free press, the first casualty is free elections.”   

Kaufman also welcomed and encouraged the administration’s engagement with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Yemen, which he characterized as “one of the most vibrant civil society in the Gulf region.”  When asked by Kaufman about public opinion in Yemen, Feltman conceded that views of the United States in Yemen are “not great,” but that the U.S. would not “shy away from” highlighting U.S. assistance to Yemen.

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