Journalist escapes from his captors in eastern Yemen

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is very worried about Yahya Al-Sowary, a Yemeni photographer who has escaped his captors after being detained for 56 days in Ghaydah, the capital of the far-eastern province of Mahrah. RSF holds the province’s authorities responsible for his safety.

A freelance photographer and video reporter for Belqees TV Yahya Al Sowary, reported in a Facebook post on 27 August that he managed to escape from the place where he was being held after being transferred there from another location.   

Sowary was kidnapped by gunmen on 5 July while filming wounded in a Ghaydah hospital after a protest in Mahrah province. Describing his two months in captivity, he wrote: “I didn’t know where I was. I was taken to several prisons, blindfolded and with my hands tied behind my back.” 

He wrote that, while held, he was interrogated many times about his supposed links with Hezbollah and Iran (the allies of Yemen’s Houthi rebels) and was badly tortured. His abductors, whom he accuses of being linked to provincial governor Rageh Bakrit, also asked him to film himself confessing to having spied for Qatar.  

Yahya Al-Sowary’s chilling account is typical of the constant dangers for Yemeni journalists,” , RSF’s Middle East desk said. “They are caught between the different forces present in Yemen, who regard them as spies as soon as they cover a sensitive event. Although now free, Sowary is still in great danger. The governor of the province where he was abducted is directly responsible for guaranteeing his safety.

Sowary’s escape brings the number of journalists missing in Yemen to 19, according to RSF’s latest tally. Yemen is ranked 168th out of 180 countries in  RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 29.08.2019