Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 26 (of 30)
Political Environment: 31 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 21 (of 30)
Total Score: 78 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

While the rights to freedom of expression and a free press are guaranteed under Article 41 of the Constitution, the government continued to use the restrictive 1990 Press and Publications Law to prosecute journalists and violate the rights of the media. Despite steps initiated in 2004 to enact a revised press law, debates continued through the end of the year without resolution. Article 103 of the press law prohibits journalists from criticizing the head of state, or publishing material that undermines public morality, prejudices the dignity of individuals by smears and defamation, or distorts the image of the Yemeni, Arab or Islamic heritage. Penalties for such press violations can range from fines to prison sentences of up to one year. Journalists can also be prosecuted under the Penal Code for such crimes as apostasy, which may carry the death penalty. The Press and Publications Office and the Court of Publications normally process cases involving press violations. However, four journalists were referred to the Prosecutor's Office specializing in terrorism and national security in July after the Ministry of Defense filed a complaint against the independent Al-Shara'a newspaper for a series of published articles on the conflicts in the northern province of Sa'ada. Charges included harming national security and stability, undermining the morale of the army, and publishing military secrets. If convicted, the defendants could face the death penalty. On July 30, the offices of Al-Shara'a were raided by armed men who threatened to kill the owners and editors, Nabil Subaie and Nayef Hassan.

Terrorism charges were also brought against Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani, editor of the opposition news website Al-Shoura, after his home was raided on June 20th. Al-Khaiwani was accused of conspiring with antigovernment rebels and belonging to a terrorist cell based on material confiscated from his home that included photographs of a conflict area in Sa'ada. A media blackout was imposed at the end of January forbidding journalists from entering the Sa'ada area, where armed confrontation between the government and followers of the assassinated Zaidi cleric, Hussein Badr el Din al Huthi, has persisted for three years. After being released on bail in July, Al-Khaiwani was abducted and physically assaulted by a group of men on August 27 who threatened to break or remove his hand in order to keep him from continuing to criticize the President. At year's end, Al-Khaiwani was still awaiting trial on terrorism charges.

Local press freedom group Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC) reported 131 violations against the press in 2007, close to double the number committed in 2006. Throughout the year, journalists were fined, arrested, detained, imprisoned, abducted, had their lives and jobs threatened, had their offices and homes raided, and were prevented from reporting on a spectrum of issues and events. A number of journalists were physically assaulted by security forces in October while covering one of the weekly peaceful sit-ins organized by the Civil Society Coalition in Freedom Square. These demonstrations in Sana'a, which started in June, protested press freedom violations such as the blocking of numerous websites, the banning of mobile phone news services, and the lack of the right to operate private media. Foreign correspondents for satellite television stations such as the Dubai-based satellite TV station Al-Arabiya also faced harassment and were detained by government officials while trying to cover local demonstrations. Perpetrators of violence against the press are rarely prosecuted, and the government seems to support an environment of complete impunity for these crimes, failing to conduct serious investigations or denounce the assaults. There were no further developments in the investigation of the 2006 murder of Al-Nahar journalist Abed al-Osaily, who criticized the government's handling of a local water project.

Fear and intimidation served to perpetuate the widespread practice of self-censorship among journalists and media owners. Investigative journalism is not encouraged due to potential penalties under the press law, in addition to the obstacles posed by low budgets, small staff, and poor institutional infrastructure. Nevertheless, Yemen's print media continued to offer relatively diverse coverage of local and international news. In the last few years, criticism of the government and reporting on issues that were previously considered taboo has increased. However, the government has responded in kind with a media crackdown. Newspapers may be confiscated and prevented from distribution due to content considered potentially damaging to national security or in violation of the press laws; yet, press articles are not reviewed by a state censorship board prior to publication. Supporting institutes for journalists' rights include the Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate (YJS) and a number of nongovernmental organizations whose mandates specifically focus on freedom of the press.

Three official newspapers and two independent papers circulate daily, in addition to an estimated 50 independent and 30 party-affiliated papers published less frequently. While a number of licenses for new print media were licensed during the year, over 60 requests have been denied since 2006. Newspaper licenses must be renewed every year and may be revoked at any time. Media revenue based on sales or subscriptions is minimal due to the country's economic situation; almost half of Yemenis live under the poverty line, with about two thirds living in rural or remote areas. Low salaries for media workers left many journalists susceptible to bribes. The government maintained its complete monopoly of all broadcast media, with two television channels, and two national and four regional radio channels, despite a statement of intention by the Minister of Information in June to introduce a licensing mechanism for private broadcast media. Due to high illiteracy rates-an estimated 50 percent of Yemenis are illiterate-the majority of the population was therefore limited to the news of the state-run television and radio programs. For those who could afford it, satellite television provided access to international news and entertainment programs. While only 1.2 percent of Yemen's population used the Internet in 2007 due to economic obstacles, the rate of growth of users was 1700 percent between 2000 and 2007. The Ministry of Telecommunications filters Internet information and censors websites, particularly during periods of political events such as the 2006 elections. The government owned the country's two Internet service providers, TeleYemen and YemenNet. Prohibitions on what could be published on the Internet included material deemed obscene or subversive on either political or religious grounds. While a number of opposition political websites and independent news sites were blocked during the year, the censoring of web content was not as widespread as in some neighboring Arab countries.

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