August 24, 2010 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Arbitrary detention of two journalists amid upsurge in violence

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the illegal detention of journalists Abdul Ilah Haydar Shae and Kamal Sharaf for the past week. They were arrested in Sanaa on 16 and 17 August at a time when government forces are stepping up a military offensive in the south of the country against militants linked with Al-Qaeda.

“The fight against terrorism does not justify the force disappearance of journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The arbitrary and brutal manner in which Shae and Sharaf were arrested amid the current upsurge of violence makes us fear the worst.”

Heavily-armed police in bullet-proof vests arrested Shae at his home on the evening of 16 August, at the end of the daily Ramadan fast. They stormed into the house after first surrounding it and firing warning shots. Shae was beaten and insulted in front of his family and was then taken away in handcuffs. All of his personal documents were confiscated. No one knows where he is currently being held.

Shae, who writes about Al-Qaeda for the Saba new agency, was previously arrested on a street in the centre of Sanaa on 11 July. After being handcuffed and blindfolded, he was taken to a security centre and subjected to six hours of interrogation, during which he was beaten and mistreated, before being released (,38084.html).

Sharaf, a close friend of Shae who was the only eye-witness of his 11 July arrest and the only person to talk about it openly, was arrested in Sanaa on 17 August. He works as a reporter for the Yemeni online newspaper Al-Joumhouriya and as a cartoonist for the website Al-Barakish. He is also a human rights activist who launched a campaign against corruption by means of cartoons on Facebook.

On 11 July, Sharaf won the first prize in a competition for cartoons that promote human rights. It was organised by the Centre for Economic Studies and Media with assistance from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

The arrest and detention of Shae and Sharaf violate the Yemeni constitution as the arresting police showed no written order and did not let them speak to their lawyers. The authorities still have not given any legal grounds for holding them. Under the constitution and the treaties Yemen has signed, they should be freed immediately.