Press freedom under fire in Yemen, report says

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Young Yemenis in Sanaa watch a news channel as Yemeni leader Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi is displayed on the screen in this archive photo from January 2015. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Young Yemenis in Sanaa watch a news channel as Yemeni leader Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi is displayed on the screen in this archive photo from January 2015. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

In a new report, the Media Freedoms Observatory of the Studies and Economic Media Centre documents 53 press freedom violations in Yemen during the first half of 2018.

Of the 53 violations committed against journalists and media organisations listed in the July 8th report, the Houthis (Ansarallah) were responsible for 27.

These included killings, injuries, kidnappings, arrests, assaults, threats and attacks on media organisations.

The report confirms that press freedoms have continued to decline in Yemen.

Eight journalists have been killed this year in Taez, al-Hodeidah and al-Bayda, and Yemen was recently added to the blacklist of violators of press freedoms.

Violations in the first half of 2018 included five attempted murders, six cases of injury, five kidnappings, six assaults, seven arrests, one attempted assault and three cases of threats, the report said.

Additionally, journalists' homes were stormed five times, it said, and there was one case of incitement recorded and six violations against media organisations.

The Houthis are still holding 14 journalists, including some who have been detained for more than three years, the report said.

Press freedom under fire

"It is now difficult to talk about declining press freedoms," journalist Rashad al-Sharaabi told Al-Mashareq.

"We were previously talking about a margin of press freedom," he said. "That margin has now disappeared, and freedoms are basically non-existent."

The profession had already been in decline in Houthi-controlled areas, he added, noting that "whatever remains of it represents one side only", with media outlets run by loyalists and controlled by the militia.

"Yemeni journalists have been displaced within and outside the country," he said. "They have been deprived of their sources of income, imprisoned, tortured and killed."

"The environment they are working in has become the most dangerous in the world," he added. "Therefore, some of them just quit the profession."

"Meanwhile, journalists did not receive any attention from the legitimate government, which has failed to revive the stalled media organisations," he said.

Armed groups target journalists

"Journalists have been turned into a party to the conflict and thus become liable to targeting by the combatants," al-Sharaabi said. "They are mostly offered as scapegoats and blamed for the local and regional political conflict."

The Iran-backed Houthis and armed groups are now targeting journalists, he added. "The militia leader went as far as saying it expressly on TV that journalists are more dangerous to their project than those who fight them on the ground."

In 2014, the Houthis closed all opposing media outlets and seized their equipment, National Organisation for Defending Rights and Freedoms media official Moussa al-Namrani told Al-Mashareq.

"They instructed state media to focus on serving the group’s project and mobilising fighters to battlefields," he said. "At that time, dozens of journalists had to leave Sanaa, and others had to quit the profession altogether."

In 2015, the Houthis detained nine journalists working for pro-government media organisations, he said, adding that they have not yet been released.

"Not a single month passes by without more losses for journalists," he said.

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Good and useful posts. Good luck to you in your work!