News

July 24, 2020

Journalist held by “legitimate” Yemeni authorities on hunger strike

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Abdullah Bukeir, a photographer held for the past two months in a region of Yemen controlled by the so-called legitimate government. He is on hunger strike and has been hospitalized.

Bukeir has been held without charge or trial since 27 May in his hometown of Mukalla, the capital of the eastern province Hadramout. His wife and children are denied any contact with him and have no information about this current status. Hadramout is controlled by the government that is recognized by the international community and is backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

 

Several local media reported that he was arrested for taking a photo of a personalized box of tissues on the provincial governor’s desk during a filmed interview with the governor. Posted on social media, the photo was the subject of a great deal mockery because the box bore the governor’s portrait.

 

Bukeir’s family say that it was on the governor’s orders that he was taken to a detention centre controlled by provincial military intelligence.

 

According to the information recently obtained by RSF, Bukeir was transferred to a hospital a month after his arrest. The Yemeni journalists’ union says his health worsened after he went on hunger strike in protest against his detention.

 

“We call for Abdullah Bukeir’s unconditional release,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “It is unacceptable that the authorities, who are moreover recognized by the international community, should arbitrarily jail a journalist who simply shared a photo of interest to the general public and whose state of health is now so worrying that he has had to be hospitalized.”

 

On the other side of Yemen, in a region controlled by the Houthi rebels, four journalists have been sentenced to death for spying and could be executed at any time. Their lawyer is currently appealing to a Houthi special court in Sanaa.

 

Yemen is ranked 167th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.