Yemeni journalist killed, nine wounded in Aden airport explosions

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an international investigation into the circumstances in which a TV reporter died and nine other journalists were wounded in a series of explosions at the airport in the southern Yemeni city of Aden that greeted the arrival of a new unity government on a flight from Saudi Arabia on 30 December.

Belqees TV reporter Adeeb Al-Janani was describing of the chaos caused by the first blast when his report was cut short by a second explosion, which killed him. At least 25 other people died in the explosions and around 100 were wounded, including nine journalists, according to local sources. Some witnesses, including a journalist, said missiles were fired. 

The new unity government’s information minister quickly blamed the attack on the Houthi rebels who control much of northern Yemen. The plane bringing the new cabinet had come from the Saudi capital, Riyadh, where Yemen’s internationally-recognized government has been based since the Houthis seized control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in 2014. The new unity government was formed on 18 December as a result of an agreement between the Riyadh-based government-in-exile and Aden-based southern separatists. It was brokered by Saudi Arabia, which had been trying for more than a year to forge a united front against the Houthis, who are close to taking Marib, the official government’s last bastion in the north. 

“Adeeb Al-Janani’s death has again highlighted the risks run by Yemeni journalists and the courage they must display in order to cover developments in their country,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “But this does not mean that their deaths are inevitable. An international investigation is needed to shed light on the circumstances of this and unacceptable act and identify those responsible, who must be prosecuted.”

An Agence France-Presse photographer, Nabil Hassan, was deliberately shot dead by unidentified gunmen outside his home in a suburb of Aden in June 2020. No investigation identified those responsible. 

Nine journalists are meanwhile being held hostage in Yemen, seven of them by the Houthis controlling Sanaa. Four of these journalists are awaiting execution of the death sentences they received in April 2020 on charges of spying for Saudi Arabia.

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

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Updated on 06.01.2021