Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by a new wave of threats and acts of intimidation against journalists in Yemen. The political class seems to have no qualms about using violence against journalists who write about corruption or embezzlement. Utterly illegal and arbitrary arrests are becoming commonplace.
“The situation is becoming more and more worrying again after the encouraging signs in May when the authorities dropped proceedings against 33 journalists on the 20th anniversary of Yemen’s reunification,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We fear that Yemen is now entering a few phase of violence against media that dare to criticise the policies imposed by the government.”
The home of Mohamed Al-Shaarbi, the editor of the weekly Al-Diyar, was fired on during the night of 12 July. It was the eighth time his home has been targeted in this fashion. Al-Shaarbi has often criticised the governor of Taez in his articles.
A journalist who works for Al-Diyar, Mohamed Al-Moqri, was arrested, on 4 July in front of a kiosk where the newspaper is sold. The police held him for 24 hours and, during interrogation, tried to pressure him to stop writing.
Several of the newspaper’s journalists were convicted by the court that specialises in press offences before the charges were withdrawn at the start of June (http://en.rsf.org/yemen-special-court-abandons-cases-10-06-2010,37716.html). Al-Diyar was one of eight publications that were suspended by the information ministry in May 2009 for “separatism”
Majid Karout, a reporter for the Al-Masdar Online website, was threatened and insulted by Al-Bayda governor Mohamed Nasser Al-Amiry during the presentation of a diploma on 11 July. Karout had written several articles criticising the governor that implicated him in alleged corruption cases.
The governor previously threatened Hossein Al-Leswas, the former editor of the Sanaa Press (http://sanaapress.net/) website and owner of the newspaper Al-Tajdid, who was given a one-year jail sentence by the Sanaa court responsible for trying press and publication offences (http://en.rsf.org/yemen-two-journalists-released-but-11-05-2010,37433.html).
Arbitrary arrests and violence
Aref Al-Sammay, a journalist who writes for the Socialist Party newspaper Al-Thawry, was accosted by three men as he left his office in Sanaa on 26 July. Identifying themselves as members of the security forces, they took his mobile phone, money and watch and then gave him a beating. He finally managed to escape. Abdullah Shae, a journalist who writes about Al-Qaeda and terrorism for a Yemeni news agency Saba, was kidnapped by eight gunmen on a Sanaa street on the night of 12 July and was taken, handcuffed and blindfolded, to the headquarters of the state security police where he was physically mistreated and was hit in the face before being freed several hours later.
Ahmed Al-Ramay, the editor of the government newspaper Al-Mithaq net, received an SMS message on 8 July threatening him with kidnapping and death. Similar threats were made against members of his family, who have had to restrict their movement. Al-Ramay has asked the authorities to provide him with protection.