October 12, 1999
His Excellency Ali Abdullah Saleh
President of the Republic of Yemen
c/o His Excellency Ambassador Abdul Wahab al-Hajjri
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
2600 Virginia Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly protests the closure of the opposition weekly newspaper Al-Haq.
On October 7, a Yemeni court ordered the one month suspension of Al-Haqfor allegedly inciting “sectarianism” and “regionalism” in opinion columns published in the newspaper in 1997 and 1999. The offending articles, which include a May 1999 article written by journalist Hassan Bin Hassainun titled “In Hadrahmut, Practices Against Unity,” strongly criticized government administration in the country’s southern provinces. Al-Haq’seditor in chief Abdel Latif al-Kutbi was also fined 4,000 Yemeni Rials by the court while Hassainun and two other Al-Haqjournalists, Ismail al-Riashi and Abdullah Hamadi, were fined 10,000 Rials each.
According to sources at Al-Haq,the court ruling was put into effect on October 9, after the Ministry of Information informed the paper’s printer of the decision.
CPJ views the closure of Al-Haqas an attempt by Yemeni authorities to silence independent and opposition media in Yemen. Such actions constitute flagrant violations of the right to free expression as guaranteed under international law. We remind Your Excellency that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees journalists the right to “seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Al-Haqis the second newspaper closed by the Yemeni courts in less than one month. On September 20, we wrote to Your Excellency protesting the September 16 appellate court ruling which ordered the indefinite closure of the opposition weekly Al-Shoura.The court’s decision stemmed from an incident that occurred in February, when two separate versions of the paper were published under the same name, thus violating provisions of the press law. However, according to journalists from Al-Shoura,Yemeni security authorities had helped publish the second version of Al-Shouraas a subterfuge. As of this writing, the paper remains closed.
The Committee to Protect Journalists respectfully urges Your Excellency to examine all possible legal options to rescind the closure orders against Al-Haqand Al-Shouraand see to it that they are allowed to resume publishing without interference from the state. We also reiterate our call that you use your good offices to ensure that Yemeni authorities cease all legal and other forms of harassment against journalists in response to their professional work and that you initiate meaningful legislative reforms aimed at halting state restrictions on the free expression of news and opinion in Yemen.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your reply.
Ann K. Cooper
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