July 28, 2009 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Al Jazeera journalists harassed and threatened over coverage of southern unrest

Reporters Without Borders condemns Yemen’s harassment and denigration of the Qatar-based satellite TV station Al Jazeera, branded by the authorities as the “enemy of a united Yemen” because of its coverage of unrest in the south of the country. In the latest incident, Sanaa bureau chief Mourad Hashem received a threatening phone call on 26 July. “The authorities use and abuse defence of national unity to censor media that try to cover events in southern Yemen,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Al Jazeera crews operating in the south of the country are constantly being obstructed in the name of this unity. The harassment and threats are serious violations of free expression, which is enshrined in article 42 of Yemen’s constitution. Journalists should not be the scapegoats of political disputes.” Chamber of Representatives member Ali Mossaad Al Lahbi called publicly for the withdrawal of Al Jazeera’s licence and the closure of its bureaux on 16 July on the grounds that it had broadcast reports “hostile to Yemen’s unity and security.” The threatening phone call which Hashem received on 26 July came from a number registered in Saudi Arabia. He and a colleague received similar threats in April. Reporters Without Borders wrote to the competent Yemeni authorities at the time voicing concern about the threats and requesting protection for Al Jazeera’s journalists. “The constant harassment to which I am subjected is part of a campaign aimed at deterring the station’s journalists from doing their professional duty,” Hashem said. “We do our work with care, professionally and impartially, according to generally recognised standards. A lot of people clearly complain. Al Jazeera is the only TV station that reports what the opposition in the south is saying.” Al Jazeera crews are often arrested or subjected to intimidation to prevent them from covering demonstrations such as those that took place in Lahij and Aden in May. Al Jazeera journalists were also expelled from a recent conference in Aden between local officials and a deputy prime minister. Yesterday, an Al Jazeera crew that went to cover a question-and-answer session in parliament on defence and national security issues were the only journalists to be denied entry to the chamber. Calls for the murder of Al Jazeera journalists are often seen in online forums and popular newspapers, especially in the province of Taez. There have been physical attacks on Al Jazeera employees such as reporter Fadel Moubarak when he was covering a demonstration in the southern province of Abyn. See this recent release: