Witnesses said that a guard mortally wounded a police officer and injured another, but this version of events was denied by the editor, Hisham Bashraheel, who said that police had deliberately fired on their own colleagues to make it appear as if demonstrators – who had rallied outside the banned newspaper to hold a solidarity ‘sit-in’ – had been armed.
Shooting that began yesterday resumed this morning and one guard was reportedly killed. Six were apparently then injured among both the security forces and the guards.
Around 30 people gave themselves up at the start of the afternoon today, including the editor’s son, Mohammed Hisham Bashraheel, after negotiations between the security forces and the daily paper’s management.
4 January 2010 - Army machineguns protestors outside newspaper office amidst growing clampdown
Reporters Without Borders condemned Yemen’s attempt to use the current anti-terror push to crush human rights after security forces today fired on a crowd of protestors staging a ‘sit-in’ outside the offices of a banned newspaper.
“The Ali Abdallah Saleh government is taking advantage of support from foreign powers in the fight against terrorism on its soil to deliberately violate people’s rights”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“The international community must remind the Sanna government that the legitimate fight against terrorism can never be used to justify cracking down on the media”, it said.
More than 200 demonstrators answered a call from several Yemeni human rights organisations to hold a ‘sit-in’ outside the offices of the newspaper al-Ayyam in Aden, in protest at the forced closure of the daily since May last year and to call for its reopening.
Editor Hisham Bashraheel described the scene to Reporters Without Borders: “The security forces started firing on the crowd at 16.07pm. The police even aimed at one of their own number to make it look like the demonstrators were armed, when in fact everyone came to protest peacefully”.
“We are surrounded. There are soldiers and police everywhere,” he added. “We have heard them calling for reinforcements. The demonstrators are still gathered at the entrance. It will be dark in Aden soon and we fear the worst”, the worried editor said.
Security forces previously fired on the offices of the newspaper on 13 May 2009 (http://www.rsf.org/Soldiers-fire-on-Aden-based.html), after the information minister banned the newspaper from printing on 4 May in the name of the principle of the “country’s national unity” (http://www.rsf.org/Major-crackdown-on-independent.html). The situation deteriorated still further on 15 July when a journalist on the newspaper, Anis Ahmed Mansur Hamida, was sentenced to 14 months in prison for “attacking national unity” and “separatism” at the end of a politically motivated trial (http://www.rsf.org/Al-Ayyam-reporter-gets-14-month.html). He remains in prison.
The state of press freedom in the country has considerably worsened since May 2009, particularly in the south of the country. Nothing has been heard of Khalid Jahafi a journalist on the opposition news website Alsahwa.net since security forces arrested him on 27 December 2009 while he was taking photos of clashes between police officers and supporters of the southern pro-independence movement (http://www.rsf.org/Crackdown-on-media-reinforced.html). Shafi’ al-Abd, a journalist on the newspaper al-Nada, as well as four members of the leadership of the Federation of Southern Youth, were arrested by police in Aden on 28 December, before being moved to Khor Maksar jail in Aden province. The journalist has been charged with forming a political party hostile to “security and national unity”. A court in Lahij province has also postponed indefinitely and without explanation the trial of journalist Iyyad Ghanem, who is in worsening health from a two-week hunger strike. He has been in custody for six months after filming a rally by supporters of the southern rebel groups in the city of Korsh.
Further, nothing has been heard since 18 September of journalist Muhammad al-Maqalih, who disappeared in unexplained circumstances. Many Yemeni journalists believe the security services were responsible for his abduction, despite their denials. Fouad Rashid, editor of the website Al-Mukalla Press, and Salah al-Saqladi, editor of the website Adengulf-website, are also still being held.