Journalists in Sanaa face danger, suppression

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Yemeni journalists hold placards to support their colleagues jailed in Houthi prisons in Yemen during a press conference of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen at the information ministry in Kuwait City in this file photo from May 5th, 2016. [Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP]

Sanaa has become an unwelcoming city for journalists in terms of press freedom and freedom of expression, due to restrictions imposed by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah), a new report reveals.

More than 400 Yemeni journalists have been displaced by the ongoing war, according to the Studies and Economic Media Centre report, issued May 8th.

They have been forced to move elsewhere, both inside Yemen and abroad, in order to preserve their lives and avoid being pursued or targeted.

In recent months, journalists in Yemen have been kidnapped and killed, and a newspaper group in Aden has been the target of an arson attack.

According to the report, Sanaa is the most restrictive city for journalists due to the "heavy-handed suppression of Yemeni journalists’ freedoms in the city".

A total of 86% of the city's journalists have been forced to leave. Sanaa is followed by Taez (5%), Aden (3%), al-Hodeidah (2%) and Hadramaut (1%).

Of the journalists who have been forced to leave their homes, 30% fled to areas within Yemen, while the remaining 70% fled the country due to increased violations against them from different parties, the report said.

Of the 30% who fled Yemen, 30% have gone to Egypt, 28% to Saudi Arabia, 10% to Turkey, and the rest to other countries, the report noted.

Aden has attracted the largest number of displaced journalists within Yemen, with 30% of journalists who have been internally displaced now based there.

Violations against journalists

“The Houthis have committed all types of violations against journalists, including arrests, raids and trials under fabricated charges," Studies and Economic Media Centre chief Mustafa Nasr told Al-Mashareq.

"Twelve journalists are still in prison awaiting trial for fabricated charges," he said. “Many journalists who left Sanaa had received threats, and some were even attacked because of their opposition to the Houthis’ policies."

“There is no freedom of expression in Sanaa," he added.

"The only media organisations that are allowed there are those affiliated with the Houthis, who shut down all other media organisations after raiding and ransacking them and arresting their staff."

According to media and rights activist Moussa al-Namrani, “the Houthis prefer to rule areas where there are no opposed or objective journalists".

"There is no room in areas under their control for anything except their war media which mobilises fighters for the battlefronts,” he told Al-Mashareq.

“In their view, those who do not contribute to this effort are enemies,” he said.

The Houthis have treated the media this way in the past, he added, noting that the militia "expelled state-run media organisations, independent journalists and writers from Saada".

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