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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Yemen

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Yemen, February 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c56520c.html [accessed 19 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

"The press is 100 percent free," declared Yemeni Information Minister Abdel Rahman al-Akwaa in January. Indeed, Yemenis have enjoyed a notable degree of press freedom since the unification in 1990 of the Yemen Arab Republic (north Yemen) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (south Yemen), which ushered in multi-party politics and the creation of liberal press laws designed to protect the press. Nevertheless, few Yemeni journalists would agree that the press functions without restrictions.

Although a number of independent newspapers have started up during the past five years, the state still controls the country's three dailies, as well as all broadcast media. And while opposition newspapers have a certain amount of freedom to criticize the government, authorities frequently seek to silence outspoken journalists. Police and agents from the Political Security Office continue to employ extra-legal means such as physical attacks and confiscation of newspapers to harass journalists.

The state's intolerance for the press was manifest in a July 7 speech by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who cautioned two independent newspapers – the English-language weekly Yemen Times and the Arabic-language biweekly Al-Ayyam – to restrain their "dubious" reporting on the government. "I am directing an early warning to them, because I know that the Minister of Information or the Ministry of Information is hesitant to take legal measures against the papers," he said. "But I shall take the appropriate measures at the appropriate time."

Such threats, coupled with the restrictive practices of security forces over the past few years, have had a chilling effect on Yemeni journalists, who increasingly practice self-censorship. "We still criticize the government," noted the editor in chief of an independent opposition newspaper. "But we use restraint and self-censorship on sensitive issues that we feel will backfire."

June 17
Al-Tagammu, CENSORED

Al-Tagammu, the weekly newspaper of the opposition Unionist Rally Party, was forced to interrupt publication when its printer, the government-owned 14th of October Printing House, refused to print the newspaper, apparently on orders from the Ministry of Information. The suspension came after Al-Tagammu reported on public demonstrations in Mukalla, the capital of the southern Hadramout region. Demonstrators were protesting remarks made by the Hadramout prosecutor that were insulting to Hadramout's women. CPJ urged the Yemeni government to end the suspension of the paper. Al-Tagammu resumed publication in late July.

July 11
Arafat Mudabish, Al-Thawri, ATTACKED

Mudabish, the parliamentary correspondent for the weekly Al-Thawri, an organ of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party, was attacked by security guards inside the Parliament building. His colleagues reported that he was beaten with rifle butts and dragged outside. The guards, calling him a secessionist, confiscated his parliamentary press accreditation. The attack ended only when a member of Parliament offered Mudabish safe haven in his car and drove him away from the scene. CPJ wrote a letter to President Ali Abdallah Saleh to express concern about the assault on Mudabish.

September 28
Abdel Rahman Khobara, Al-Ayyam, HARASSED

Plainclothes Yemeni police officers entered the Aden office of the independent biweekly Al-Ayyam and attempted to arrest Khobara, a columnist, even though they had no warrant. Khobara's colleagues argued with the police, telling them that Khobara could not lawfully be taken into custody without official court orders. The police eventually left the building, but they waited outside until early the next morning in an apparent attempt to detain Khobara as he exited. Khobara was forced to remain inside the office to avoid being arrested. Khobara, an outspoken critic of Yemeni government policy, had broadcast a report on Radio Kuwait about public demonstrations in the town of Mukallah on Sept. 25. In 1995, Khobara was detained for four days by political security officials in connection with another Radio Kuwait story, about explosions at a government ammunition depot in Aden. On Oct. 2, 1996, CPJ called on Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh to instruct security authorities to stop harassing Khobara.

September 30
Muhammad al-Saqqaf, HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION

Al-Saqqaf, a writer and former university professor who occasionally contributes articles to the Yemeni press, was summoned by officials from the attorney general's office in Sanaa. He was interrogated for one-and-a-half hours about two articles he wrote for Al-Wahdawi, a weekly newspaper that is Nasserite in ideology, after the former Egyptian President Gamal

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