Fixer for foreign reporters held in Aden for past five months

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Adel Al-Hasani, a freelance journalist working as a fixer for foreign media outlets, who has been held arbitrarily for nearly five months in Yemen’s second largest city, Aden, in the south of the country.

After Hasani’s arrest on 17 September in Aden, which is controlled by the Southern Transitional Council (STC), no one know where he was until he managed to call his wife a week later. Another month went by before she and his lawyer were finally able to visit him in prison and confirm that he was in reasonably good health. 

Often employed as a fixer by foreign media such as the BBC, CNN and France 24, he was facing possible prosecution on a charge of “illegally facilitating the entry of foreign citizens” into the region controlled by the STC, which is backed by the United Arab Emirates.

On the eve of his arrest, Hasani received a call from an Emirati intelligence officer who told him to stop working as a fixer. At the time, he had been working with foreign reporters who were arrested on 12 September by the military police in the nearby port town Mocha, on arriving in the Bab Al-Mandab strait, and were themselves held for six days.

Despite diplomatic and political pressure on STC representatives for the past five months, Hasani’s fate still hangs in the balance. When RSF contacted STC spokesman Nizar Haitham at the end of September, he said he would “follow up the case.” While a court decision has approved the journalist's release in the meantime, he is nevertheless still behind bars.

“We call on the South Yemen authorities to release Adel Al-Hasani in the name of the press freedom they claim to protect,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Keeping him in detention is just a way to win time because the accusations against him don’t stand up. Adel Al-Hasani must be freed at once in accordance with Yemeni law.”

According to the information obtained by RSF, a local security force is preventing Hasani’s release by bringing new accusations against him linked to his past reporting. In an audio message recorded in prison (a copy of which has been obtained by RSF), Hasani says he no longer trusts his country’s judicial system because it is subservient to politics.

The STC nonetheless said in a statement in July 2019 that it was “clear about its commitment to the protection of human rights and freedoms across South Yemen, particularly for media personnel who play a critical role in reporting on the realities on the ground.”

RSF has meanwhile learned that another freelancer, Mohammed Waleed, was arrested when anti-terrorist forces raided his home in the Aden region on the night of 1 February and finally released him on the 9th. His family does not know why he was arrested.

Yemen is ranked 167th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 11.02.2021