Reporters Without Borders condemns the five-month jail sentences that a Muscat court passed today on Yousef Al-Haj, a journalist with the Muscat-based daily Al-Zaman, and Ibrahim Al-Mo’amari, his editor, for allegedly defaming justice minister Mohamed Al-Hanai in an article published on 14 May. The judge also ordered the newspaper closed for a month.
Reporters Without Borders expressed its concern about the trial in a letter to Sultan Qaboos, Oman’s head of state, on 11 August, three days before it began. “The proceedings are out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence and we call for their immediate withdrawal,” the letter said.
The lawyer defending the two journalists said they would appeal. The authorities already banned Al-Haj from working as a journalist on 5 July because of the article, which referred to allegations of corruption within the justice ministry.
Reporters Without Borders has learned that Al-Hurra TV cameraman Hassan Al-Wadhaf sustained a serious eye injury on 18 September while covering attacks by security forces and baltajiyas (militiamen) on demonstrators in Sanaa, in which 26 people were killed. Hospitalized in a critical condition, Wadhaf was later reported to be on life-support equipment with no chance of recovery.
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the violence. Journalists who were with Wadhaf said men in civilian dress deliberately fired rocket-propelled grenades at the crowd.
Two journalists have already been killed in Yemen since the start of the pro-democracy demonstrations. They were Jamal Al-Sharabi of Al-Masdar and Mohamed Yahia Al-Malayia of Al-Salam, who were killed on 18 March.
BBC correspondent Abdallah Ghourab was openly threatened as he was leaving a news conference on 19 September, three weeks after he and his cameraman, Zine Al-Siqaf, were physically attacked by five baltajiyas in civilian dress at a gas station on Riqas Street in Sanaa on 26 August as they were filming a report about fuel shortages.
At least two French journalists have been wounded in the past five days in Libya.
Mohamed Ballout, a journalist with dual French and Lebanese nationality working for the BBC, was injured in the chest in Bani Walid on 16 September by a shot fired by a pro-Gaddafi sniper. He was flown to Malta in stable condition and was transferred yesterday to Percy military hospital in the Paris suburb of Clamart to be operated on.
Jean-Paul Mari of Le Nouvel Observateur, who was with Ballout, wrote : “A round fired by a pro-Gaddafi sniper killed one man, passed through the body of another man and hit Mohammed under the arm, in a gap in his bullet-proof vest, piercing his lung and lodging in the middle of his chest. It is still there, as long as a finger and visible in the X-ray. It is a bullet from a Dragunof, a very powerful, large-calibre Russian precision rifle.”
French freelance photographer Olivier Sarbil was seriously injured in the face, arms and legs by shrapnel from an exploding shell during fighting between pro- and anti-Gaddafi forces on 17 September in Syrte. After undergoing an operation he was flown back to France.
Reporters Without Borders has learned that Jehad Jamal, a blogger better known by the pen-name of Milan, has been arrested again. Jamal has already had several recent spells in detention. His most recent previous arrest was on 4 August.
Nizar Adleh, a journalist who reports for various websites, was arrested on 6 September. Miraal Brourda, a writer and poet who contributes to several websites, has also been arrested.