Who are the four Yemeni journalists under Houthi death sentence?
As four Yemeni journalists continue to wonder when or whether the Houthi authorities will execute the death sentences they received in April on spying charges, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for international pressure to make the Houthis understand that they will suffer international opprobrium if they do not overturn the sentences.
Before being abducted by the Houthis in 2015, the four journalists played leading roles in a Sanaa-based network of media outlets and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp pages linked to Al-Islah, the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and ruling party in regions controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognized government.
Abdul Khaleq Amran edited the Al-Islah Online website and ran Yemen Revolution Press, a news agency created from several media outlets in 2011. His staff covered the Yemeni civil war, documented crimes committed by the Houthis and interviewed the Houthis’ opponents.
Akram Al-Walidi supervised the staff of the Alrabie-ye.net news website and the government news agency SABA. He gathered information about developments in the fighting from the Al-Islah side, on the basis of reliable sources and with the help of a network of senior political and administrative officials then based in Ma’rib, which was established as the new capital after the Houthi rebels seized Sanaa.
Hareth Humaid, the head of news at Yemen Revolution Press, covered Houthi human rights violations, including abductions and bombardments of civilians. He produced a daily news bulletin with the latest violations. Its last issue was No. 54.
Tawfiq Al-Mansouri worked for the daily newspaper Al-Masdar until it stopped publishing when the Arab coalition intervened in 2015. He then joined Yemen Revolution Press doing layout and graphic design and helping to give form to the various media outlets linked to the agency.
After their abduction in 2015, the four journalists were secretly moved from one prison to another in Sanaa and were subjected to violent interrogations. Torture and repeated blows left all of them with severe physical and psychological aftereffects, according to the Association of Abductees’ Mothers. Amran has a slipped disc. Humaid has suffered loss of vision and has constant migraines. Walidi has chronic digestive problems.
“Every year the world moves one step closer to the universal abolition of the death penalty, but these four veteran journalists are facing the worst of all sentences just for doing their job,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“Efforts are urgently needed to end their nightmarish plight and return to humanitarian principles in a country where journalists have already paid a heavy price in the war. The Houthis must overturn this decision or face international opprobrium. We ask all those who may have any influence, direct or indirect, on the Houthis to use it to help bring this madness to an end.”
The four were among a total of ten journalists abducted by the Houthis in Sanaa in 2015 on the absurd grounds that they could potentially provide the Arab coalition with information for use in its air strikes. Accused of “collaborating with the enemy,” they were tried by a Houthi Special Criminal Court that is not recognized by the international community.
In its latest annual round-up, RSF reported that a total of 15 journalists were being held hostage in Yemen, most of them by the Houthis. The others were either being held in provinces controlled by the so-called “legitimate government” (such as Muhammad Ali Al-Moqri) on in areas controlled by separatists (such as Saleh Musawa, who has since been released).
As RSF also reported in the 2019 round-up, the conditions in Yemen are nowadays so bad that many journalists have abandoned journalism and have switched to other forms of work.
Yemen is ranked 167th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.