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Yemen - Ytringsfrihed

YEMEN: Journalists rail against “harsh treatment” during riots

IRINnews.org, 2. august 2005

Journalister i Yemen klager over hård medfart fra politiet efter dækning af demonstrationer over stigning i oliepriserne. I forbindelse med demonstrationerne, der blev mødt med hård medfart fra politiet og omkring 50 dræbte blev mange journalister arresteret og deres cameraer og film konfiskeret.

SANA, 2 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Yemeni journalists have complained that they were on the receiving end of harsh and regrettable treatment by police and security personnel, while covering the deadly riots in the country over a rise in oil prices last week.

"More than 10 incidences of harsh treatment were recorded within only two days," said Hafez al-Bukari, General Secretary of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS).

During riots, which claimed the lives of some 50 people, the army and security forces in Yemen arrested a number of journalists covering the events and attacked others, the YJS said, adding that cameras and film were confiscated.

“The Ministry of Interior has not seriously dealt with continuous complaints issued by the YJS,” al-Bukari said. The government always tries to block coverage of such events in fear of bad publicity, he added.

In an open meeting organised in the capital, Sana, on Sunday to discuss the incidents, Mohaboob Ali, chairman of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, described the incidents as "regrettable".

“We have intervened to get some of our colleagues released,” he said. “We cannot accept such practices, and some officials from the Ministry of Interior should have attended this debate.”

The government declined to comment on the issue when contacted on Tuesday by IRIN.

Yemen’s delegation told the UN Human Rights Committee in July that major advances had been towards reform of the Press and Publications Act of 1990, which restricts reporting on certain issues in the country and bans any criticism of the leaders. Protests can be reported on under the act.

In other incidents of concern to the journalists meeting on Saturday, Yemeni correspondents for foreign media were barred from sending news reports using Yemeni TV satellite stations despite agreements that allow them to do so.

“When I was reporting on the riots, policemen arrested me and put me in jail for three days,” said Ali al-Awadhi from the weekly Al-Asima newspaper.

“I was accused of instigating the riots. I was put in a small cell with another 16 prisoners.”

The situation for Yemeni journalists is becoming riskier, according to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, ever since an attack on the managing editor of the independent daily newspaper An-Nahar on 17 July.

The editor, Hajei al-Jehafi, says he was injured after a booby-trapped letter exploded in his face.

“I have received several threats from an influential social figure in Yemen after criticising his practices with the ordinary citizens of his area,” al-Jehafi told IRIN.

“There were also threats against my family, so I took my wife and children back to my village where they are safe.”

Journalists at An-Nahar have called for international advocacy in support of al-Jehafi, saying they were dissatisfied not to have got any reaction from the Ministry of Interior.

Local and international journalists organisations have complained of what they say is an increasing incidence of attacks against journalists in Yemen, after a marked rise in abuses in 2004 which saw the country drop 33 places in the World Press Freedom Index over two years.

The index, published in mid-January by the press watchdog Reporters Sans Frontiers (or “Journalists Without Frontiers”) showed that Yemen’s position had dropped from 103 in 2002 to 136 in 2004 – ranking it below Afghanistan (97) and Somalia (130).

“We are gravely concerned about these attacks on journalists in Yemen,” said Aidan White, general-secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, based in Belgium.

“We stand in solidarity with the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate as it fights to maintain a free press and ensure its members’ safety”, he added in a statement issued on 29 July.

It is unclear exactly why the incidence of violations of press freedom should have increased so much in the past year, though media observers in Yemen say it appears to be in response to greater press criticism of the government.

© IRIN - This article appeared originally on IRIN News.org and is published by engelund.dk according a general agreement. To view the original article, please click here.
IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is a project of UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]


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Opdateret d. 3.10.2005