Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 28
Political Influences: 33
Economic Pressures: 20
Total Score: 81
Life Expectancy: 61
Religious Groups: Muslim [including Sunni and Shia], other
Ethnic Groups: Arab [majority], Afro-Arab, South Asian
Freedom of the press continued to backslide in Yemen, with an alarming series of attacks on journalists in 2005. The constitution provides for freedom of the press, but the overall legal framework regulating the press is weak. Article 103 of the Press and Publications Law prohibits direct personal criticism of the head of state, and the penal code provides for fines and imprisonment for publishing "false information" that "threatens public order or the public interest." The weakness of Yemen's judiciary and lack of clarity about who has the power to interpret the meaning of vague laws affecting the press create an environment in which journalists do not feel secure in their freedom to criticize the government and freely debate issues, resulting in self-censorship. By the end of the year, the Ministry of Information presented a draft Press Law to the Parliament. The Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate objected to the draft law, saying that it aimed to further restrict press freedom.
The situation confronting journalists – threats of violence and death, as well as arbitrary arrest by police and security forces – worsened during the year. In the spring of 2005, security forces in the Taiz and Al-Dale governorates beat up several journalists, including Mohammad Abdu Sufian, editor of Taiz newspaper, and Mohammad Mohsen al-Hadad, general manager of Taiz Radio and Television. In August, Jamal Amer, editor of Al-Wasat newspaper, was abducted and beaten by armed men who said they were acting on behalf of military officers intending to warn him against future criticism of the government. Government security forces ransacked the office of Associated Press journalist Ahmed Alhaj, taking files and a computer. In October, police beat a television crew from the Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya that was covering a strike by textile workers in Sanaa. Al-Thawra, the government-run daily newspaper, ran several editorials in 2005 accusing reporters critical of the government of being foreign intelligence agents. However, in November Al-Thawra itself was fined over US$5,000 and had two of its reporters banned for six months for defamation of a government official. President Ali Abdullah Saleh's decision in March to pardon Abdel Kareem al-Khawaini – an opposition paper editor who had been jailed in 2004 for publishing articles criticizing the government's handling of rebellion in northern Saada – was a positive development in an otherwise violent and repressive year.
The Ministry of Information controls most of the printing presses in the country and provides subsidies to many newspapers. The state enjoys a monopoly on domestic broadcast media, which has a wider impact than print media because of the high rates of illiteracy in Yemen, and generally prevents reporting critical of the government. Satellite television, with access to regional satellite channels that face far fewer restrictions, is becoming increasingly accessible to the population. Use of the internet is not widespread, with little more than 1 percent of the population able to gain regular access, and the government reportedly blocks websites it deems offensive.
Disclaimer: © Freedom House, Inc. · All Rights Reserved