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Yemen28 May 2009

President urged to halt persecution of news media

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 (, whose headquarters in Aden were fired on by soldiers and police on 13 May (

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.

  In this country
13 May - Yemen
Soldiers fire on Aden-based newspaper, killing one employee and wounding three others
5 May - Yemen
Major crackdown on independent media
16 March - Yemen
Journalist Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani pardoned again
6 October - Yemen
Foreign journalist’s fixer wrongly held in custody
25 September - Yemen
Journalist serving six-year sentence released by presidential directive

in the annual report
Yemen - Annual report 2008
Yemen - Annual Report 2007
Yemen - Annual report 2006

15 February 2009 - Israel/Gaza
Operation “Cast lead” : news control as a military objective
11 February 2009 - Tunisia
“Tunisia, the courage to inform the public”: Reporters Without Borders meets journalists living under high-level surveillance
19 March 2008 - Iraq
Hundreds of journalists forced into exile in five years since start of US-led invasion of Iraq

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Middle East press releases
3 June - Libya
Independent media brought under government control
2 June - Lebanon
French investigation at standstill four years after journalist Samir Kassir’s murder
1 June - Iraq
A journalist killed and three others wounded in two bombings
29 May - Palestinian territories
More journalists arrested as a result of tension between Palestinian factions
28 May - Iraq
A step forward and a step back in prime minister’s lawsuits against news media