Concern about health of journalists held by Houthis in Sanaa

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arbitrary detention of ten journalists by Houthi rebels for almost two years and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. They are being held in terrible conditions in at the Political Security prison to the west of the capital, Sanaa, and their families say the state of health of some of them is very worrying.

RSF has been able to establish that at least five of the ten journalists and media workers are in very poor health. According to our information, the families are now forbidden to provide them with medicine or clothes.

We urge the authorities to do everything possible to free the detained journalists so that they can receive treatment as soon as possible,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

In a political, security and humanitarian situation in Yemen that is disastrous, journalists are being targeted because they are viewed as suspects in the ongoing conflict. We also call for an independent and impartial international investigation so that all those responsible for crimes against journalists in Yemen can be brought to justice.”

Appalling conditions in Sanaa's Political Security prison

According to our information, Toufic Al-Mansouri, the former graphic design editor at Al-Masdar, a newspaper that supports the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Al-Islah party, has been denied family visits, and even a phone call with his family, for more than two weeks. The worried family says his health has declined in detention and fears that his life is now in danger.

Al-Mansouri and eight other journalists and media workers were abducted by Houthi rebels from a Sanaa hotel on 9 June 2015. They were at the hotel for work reasons. According to our sources, he is one of a number of prisoners who have been in solitary confinement for weeks and have been tortured with electrodes and by other methods.

AbdelKhaleq Amrane, the former editor of the Al-Islah website, is in the same situation. His familiy says he is suffering acute spinal column pain as a result of the torture and is now threatened with paralysis.

According to the information obtained by RSF, the three other journalists in the prison who are known to in very poor health are Issam Belghith, who worked for the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Radio Nas, Akram Al-Walidi of the Al-Rabi’ Net news website, and Salah Al-Qa’idi of Suhail TV.

Even before the Houthi rebels arrived in Sanaa in September 2014, this political security prison was notorious for restricting visits and medicine and for humiliating the families of detainees. The situation has only worsened since the Houthis took over.

The families of the journalists held by the Houthis announced in May 2016 that the journalists had gone on hunger strike in protest against the conditions in Habra prison, where they were held at the time. They were subsequently transfered to the political prison.

Other journalists targeted

According to our sources, Alssada News website editor Amin Al-Majzoub, who had been held by the Houthis in a prison in Ibb province south of the capital since July 2015, was released on 25 March as a result of mediation involving local tribes.

Yemen’s journalists are caught between the various parties to the country’s conflict. They risk being killed by snipers while covering fighting or being killed in air strikes. And they risk being kidnapped by armed groups or being arrested by pro-government forces.

Some, such as the investigative reporter Mohamed Al-Absi, die in mysterious circumstances. Well known for his investigative coverage of corruption, the black market and the war economy, Al-Absi was poisoned by a toxic gas in Sanaa in late December.

At least 16 journalists and media workers are currently held by armed groups in Yemen. RSF has little information about those held outside the capital by the Houthis or by Al-Qaeda.

Yemen is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Published on
Updated on 13.04.2017