Houthis top 2019 list of violations against media: report

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


A Yemeni man stands slinging on his shoulder a PK machine gun during a tribal meeting in the Houth-held Sanaa on September 21st, 2019, as tribesmen donate rations and funds to fighters loyal to the Houthis along the fronts. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Media institutions and journalists have come under attack during the ongoing war in Yemen, with the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) recording the most violations against media freedom in 2019, according to a recent report.

The report, released January 1st by Media Freedoms Observatory of the Studies and Economic Media Centre (SEMC), said that of a total of 143 media freedom violations committed in Yemen last year, 75 were committed by the Houthis.

The violations included two cases of killing, nine injuries, six kidnappings, 15 arrests, 30 assaults, 20 threats, one suspension from work and 11 violations against media institutions, the report said.

Also documented were 49 other cases that include the referral of journalists to public prosecution and taking hold of the properties of 25 journalists and media organisations, in preparation for their confiscation.

Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthis, came in first place with 72 violations recorded in 2019.

It was followed by Taiz with 31 recorded violations; 16 in Aden; seven in Hadramaut; six in al-Dhale; four in al-Jawf; two in each of Hajja, Shabwa and al-Mahrah, and one in Abyan.

Hostile environment

"Journalists work in a hostile environment in Yemen because of the increasing number of systematic, repressive practices against them by all parties to the conflict," the report said.

Illegal practices against journalists, including incarcerations without trial, increased in 2019, it said, noting that 16 journalists remain detained in Houthi prisons, some of whom have been held for more than four years.

Similarly, journalist Mohammed Ali is still detained by the legitimate government in Mareb, and no information is available on the fate of Mohammed al-Muqri, who was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in late 2015, the report said.

"This is part of a systematic campaign against free [journalists] who refuse to be guided by or affiliated with a particular entity that seeks to dictate the information and news they cover," it said.

Human rights activist Abdul Rahman Barman said it was expected that the Houthis would top the list of violations, given that they are "a repressive, armed group that maintains a hostile relationship with the press which exposes its practices to the world".

Journalists seek to reveal the truth about wartime violations to the world, he said, "and that is why the Houthis have sought to repress journalists and shut down all media organisations, including independent organisations".

"The Houthis have been involved in the killing, torture, kidnapping, forced disappearance and the most horrible forms of repression against journalists," he told Al-Mashareq.

They aim to keep only the voices loyal to them in areas under their control in order to prevent media coverage of the suffering of local residents in those areas, he said.

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