Journalists silenced, suppressed in Yemen war

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Saad, the brother of Yemeni journalist and AFP contributor Nabil Hasan al-Quaety, is assisted by mourners as they carry his body during his funeral procession in Aden's Mansoura district on June 4th. [AFP]

Saad, the brother of Yemeni journalist and AFP contributor Nabil Hasan al-Quaety, is assisted by mourners as they carry his body during his funeral procession in Aden's Mansoura district on June 4th. [AFP]

Journalists and media outlets have been silenced during Yemen's protracted conflict, with those reporting on areas held by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) encountering the most suppression, observers said.

The disappearance of opposing voices and points of view in the media is a direct consequence of the abuse journalists have been subjected to by all parties to the conflict, said Yemeni Journalists Syndicate council member Nabil al-Asidi.

In an October 30th report, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said that 44 journalists had been killed in Yemen between 2010 and September 30th.

The perpetrators of these crimes must be held to account, the IFJ said, and must not be allowed to escape justice.

Yemen's conflict, political instability and multiplicity of actors in the absence of state authority have helped to create a situation where impunity is the norm, it said, noting that there also is a climate of hostility towards the press.

Most of the perpetrators of these crimes are involved in the ongoing war in Yemen, it added, also pointing to the absence of an independent judiciary.

"Yemeni media has become highly polarised along political and sectarian lines, and media professionals are considered by the warring factions as the enemy," the IFJ said.

Yemen's 'forgotten war'

The IFJ said the situation in Yemen can seem like a "forgotten war" because the sparse international coverage on the conflict has resulted in a news deficit.

Many journalists fled the country, but some of those who remain continue to remind the world of the havoc the conflict continues to exact on the civilian population, it said, sometimes at the expense of their lives.

Local journalists are most vulnerable to harm, and are more likely to face the dangers of reporting on the war, the IFJ said, noting that so far this year, two journalists have been killed in Yemen.

Cameraman Badil al-Buraihi was killed in a Houthi bombing on January 18th, and on June 2nd, AFP photojournalist Nabil Hasan al-Quaety was assaulted and murdered by unidentified men outside his home.

In 2019, journalist Ziyad al-Sharabi was killed in a January 29th bombing when he was on a reporting assignment in al-Mokha, with the finger of suspicion pointing towards the Houthis. Photographer Ghaleb Balhach was killed in May.

According to the IFJ, 20 kidnapped journalists are still missing.

"Any journalist who tries to do his job and perform his duties in uncovering the facts and reporting them to the public becomes a primary target, to keep the truth from getting out," al-Asidi said.

The Houthis top the list in terms of violations against journalists, he said.

Houthis top list of violators

The number of journalists killed in Yemen "reflects the hostility all the parties bear to journalists, which leads to them being targeted", Studies and Economic Media Centre chairman Mustafa Nasr told Al-Mashareq.

Journalists are targeted in direct killings, assassinations or other violations, such as forcible disappearance, imprisonment or the issuance of death sentences against them, he said.

The Media Freedoms Observatory has recorded the various types of violations committed against journalists, he said, with the Houthis topping the list of violators.

Mustafa called on international human rights organisations to file lawsuits against those who violate the freedom of the press in international courts in order to deter these crimes.

Political analyst and journalist Rashad al-Sharaabi told Al-Mashareq that while all parties are committing violations against journalists, the Houthis are targeting them directly, on the orders of their leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi.

Al-Houthi directed his followers to "target journalists because they represent more of a risk [to the militia] than the fighters in the field", he said.

Violations against journalists, "range from murder, kidnapping and torture, to depriving them of their salaries", he said, noting that most journalists worked for government-affiliated press and media establishments.

These outlets "were seized and taken over by the Houthis", he said.

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