Reporters Without Borders wrote again today to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his information minister, Hassan Ahmed Al-Lawzi, to condemn the latest measures taken by the government with the clear aim of gagging the news media.
“All these measures constitute serious and repeated violations of press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities must put an immediate stop to all these forms of harassment and intimidation. All of Yemen’s journalists must be allowed to express their views freely.”
Reporters Without Borders is particularly concerned about a recent decision to set up a special court in Sanaa to try press offences. “We believe that such a court has only one aim, namely to muzzle journalists,” the letter said.
Citing the need to defend “national unity,” the information minister banned the printing of eight independent newspapers on 4 May for allegedly promoting “separatism.” Seven of them were weeklies and the eighth was the Aden-based daily Al-Ayyam (http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=31187), whose headquarters in Aden were fired on by soldiers and police on 13 May (http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=31303)
Reporters Without Borders has learned that police arrested journalist Yahya Bamahfouz, the editor of the Hadramawt news website, on 12 May in Mukalla (500 km east of Sanaa), seizing his computer and work material. His family says his state of health is worrying. Reporters Without Borders calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Saleh Khamis bin Mehanna, an independent journalist who is critical of the government, has meanwhile been the victim of a physical attack by members of the security forces in Mukalla. It is the second time he has been attacked by government agents.