Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns yesterday’s decision by the information minister to ban the printing of seven newspapers - Al-Nada, Al-Shari’, Al-Masdar, Al-Mustaqila, Al-Diyar, Al-Ayyam and Al-Watani - for allegedly promoting “separatism.”
“This decision is censorship, pure and simple,” said Reporters Without Border, which wrote today to President Ali Abdullah Saleh urging him to rescind the ban and to ensure that an independent press can continue to exist in Yemen.
Fouad Rachid, the editor of the Mukalla Press website, was meanwhile arrested at around 8 p.m. yesterday by government security forces in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramaout province (500 km east of Sanaa), and was taken to an unknown location. Mukalla Press has been covering the unrest in the south.
One of the newspapers, the privately-owned daily Al-Ayyam, had been the target of harassment in recent days over its coverage of protests and unrest in the south of the country. Yemen was ranked 155th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
05.05.2009 - Aden-based daily’s delivery trucks intercepted
Reporters Without Borders condemns the repeated hijacking of trucks carrying copies of the privately-owned daily Al-Ayyam in the past few days. The interceptions appear to be have prompted by the Yemen-based newspaper’s coverage of protests in the south of the country.
Al-Ayyam editor Hisham Bashraheel told Reporters Without Borders that the seizures were “worthy of a totalitarian regime.” He said he contacted the prime minister yesterday and that the prime minister had promised to investigate.
“The recent events are threatening Al-Ayyam’s very existence.” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the authorities to investigate these incidents properly and to ensure that the newspaper can be distributed normally. Such methods are tantamount to censorship.”
A truck carrying about 16,500 copies of the newspaper was intercepted by gunmen on the Lahej road 50 km north of Aden (360 km south of Sanaa) on 1 May. The driver was forced to abandon the truck and all the copies were seized.
The same thing happened on the morning of 3 May to two of the newspaper’s delivery trucks, one bound for Taez and the other for Sanaa. A total of 30,000 copies of the newspaper were taken and the drivers were held for 17 hours. These attacks are believed to have been the work of a pro-government organisation that claims to defend national unity.
Al-Ayyam’s local correspondents have often been threatened and its Sanaa office was the target of an armed attack on 12 February 2008 (http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25751).
Created in 1958, Al-Ayyam is one of Yemen’s leading dailies. It has no political affiliation but, with headquarters in the southern city of Aden, it acts as a mouthpiece of the inhabitants of the poor southern provinces and has provided extensive coverage of the social unrest in the south.