The journalists learned on 19 February that they are to be tried by a Houthi special criminal court on a charge of “collaborating with the enemy,” which carries the death penalty under Houthi justice.
“After being arbitrarily imprisoned by the Houthis for four years, held in appalling conditions and subjected to torture, these ten journalists could now be executed,” said Sophie Anmuth, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Their ordeal has dragged on for too long. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.”
Some of these journalists are suffering from the serious physical after-effects of the torture to which they have been subjected, according to a Yemeni NGO, the Association of Mothers of Detainees. Some were forced to make confession that were filmed. Many of them have also been starved and are in very poor psychological condition.
Anwar al-Rakan, a journalist who was freed in mid-2018 after being held for a year by the Houthis, was in such a terrible condition that he died two days after his release.
The ten journalists are Tawfiq al-Mansouri(Masdar TV), Essam Belgheeth(Radio Nass),Hassan Enab(Yemen Youth TV), Hisham Tarmoom(Masdar TV), Hisham al-Yousefi(Yemen YouTube), Haitham al-Shihab(AlAhali.com), Akram al-Walidi(Al Rabi3), Hareth Homaid(AlSahwa.netand Al-Rabi3),Abdel Khaleq Omran(Islah Online) and Salah al-Kaadi(Sahil Fadaa’iya TV).
They all worked for media outlets regarded as sympathetic to Yemen’s Islah party, which in 2015 came out in support for the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that is supporting the official government and fighting the Houthi rebels.
The ten journalists were abducted by the Houthis on the absurd grounds that the Arab coalition could have used their reporting to help target its air strikes, according to an Amnesty International report.
At least 17 journalists and citizen-journalists are currently held hostage in Yemen – 16 by the Houthis and one by Al-Qaeda. Abuses against journalists, combined with political and economic pressure resulting from the civil war and the blockade imposed by the Arab coalition, have stifled all media independence.
Yemen is ranked 167th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.