Two Yemeni journalists based in Taiz wanted by local military intelligence

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the authorities in Taiz, a city in southern Yemen that has resisted being taken over by Houthi rebels, to protect two journalists who are being threatened by the city’s military intelligence department because of their coverage of the massacre of members of a family. The intimidation of the reporters must stop, RSF says.

When armed men surrounded the home of the two journalists last night, one of them, Al Jazeera cameraman Naeef Al-Wafi, managed to escape and go into hiding while the other, independent cameraman Taha Saleh, was not at home.

The assault on their home was prompted by their coverage of the persecution of a family in the city’s Bir Basha residential district, in which some members of the family have been killed and other members have been abducted. The case has caused a stir in Taiz.

According to local media, those responsible for persecuting the family belong to the Taiz Axis, a militia close to the Islah Party (which controls part of the region) and the official army. This militia – whose commander, Majid Al-Aaraj, was killed in an armed clash on 10 August – reportedly targeted the family in recent weeks because of a property dispute. Al-Wafi asked whether the perpetrators were members of the national army, while Saleh reported the calls for justice made by the victims’ relatives.

“We call for an immediate end to the threats against the journalists Naeef Al-Wafi and Taha Saleh,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “It is absolutely unacceptable that those responsible for human rights abuses should turn on the journalists who report them. We expect the authorities to protect these media professionals.”

Two freelance journalists were meanwhile recently abducted in Houthi-controlled regions of Yemen. One of the journalists, Fahd AI-Arhabi, was held in the capital, Sanaa, from 12 July to 10 August for covering a Houthi attack on a wedding in Amran, 50 km north of Sanaa. The other journalist, Younis Abdulsalam, was abducted in Sanaa on 10 August. His family has had no news of him since then.

Yemen is ranked 169th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 19.08.2021