As in Syria and Bahrain, it is become increasingly difficult for both the national and international media to cover the protests in Yemen and the methods used by the government to crack down on the protests. The constant press freedom violations take a variety of often complex or veiled forms including abductions of journalists, murder attempts, arrests, expulsions, confiscation of newspapers, and threats and attacks on media offices.
“Amid the chaos in Yemen, the authorities see control of news and information as essential,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “By blocking the flow of information, the government manages to make the rest of the world forget that pro-democracy activists are also being killed or imprisoned in Yemen. It is time the international community ended its embarrassing silence on the situation in Yemen and assumed its responsibilities.”
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the detention of New Zealander journalist Glen Johnson, who was arrested on 25 June on a charge of entering the country illegally. He was held for more than a week in a prison in Lahij province, south of the capital, before being handed over to security forces. He is due to be deported soon. His family is still without any news of him. A Free Glen Johnson from Yemens jail! page, has been created on Facebook.
A freelancer who writes occasionally for the New York Times and International Herald Tribune, Johnson had, in addition to covering the protests, been working on a story about human trafficking from Africa to the Middle East via Yemen, a subject he has covered in other articles in the past. The Yemeni authorities gave him 72 hours to leave the country in 2010, when he was doing a story on sexual violence against women.
Reporters Without Borders is meanwhile still without any news of Al-Sahwa.net correspondent Yahia Al-Thanaya, who was abducted at a checkpoint near the Al-Dailami air-base, a few kilometres outside Sanaa, on the night of 19 June, just a few days after reporting that the government was illegally holding activists at a secret detention centre within the base.
In an apparent murder attempt, unidentified gunmen opened fire on the car of opposition journalist Salah Al-Din Al-Dakak outside the school his children attend in the southern province of Taiz on 25 June.
Copies of the newspaper Al-Oula were seized on the outskirts of Sanaa on 25 June for the 19th time since pro-democracy demonstrations began in mid-February. Five days later, 2,000 copies of the newspaper Al-Umma were confiscated at a checkpoint in the southern city of Aden. The seizure of newspapers is often used by the authorities as a way to obstruct the flow of information about the protests and the ensuing government repression. Access to the Mareb Press website was also blocked on 30 June and its journalists were physically attacked.
Since the start of the demonstrations calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s departure:
- Two journalists have been killed. They were Mohamed Yahia Al-Malayia, the correspondent of the newspaper Al-Salam, and Jamal Al-Sharabi, a news photographer working for the independent daily Al-Masdar, who were among the fatalities when government security forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration outside the university in Sanaa’s Change Square on 18 March.
- At least eight foreign reporters have been deported.
- At least six Yemeni journalists have been kidnapped.
- At least 50 Yemeni journalists have been physically attacked.
- The Republican Guard has seized tens of thousands of copies of Yemeni daily and weekly newspapers.
- Access to news websites has often been blocked. Al-Masdar Online has been blocked five times. Mareb Press has also been blocked several times.
- The satellite TV station Al-Jazeera was forced to close its Sanaa bureau on 25 March. All of its journalists had their accreditation withdrawn.