CPJ urges justice in editor’s abduction, assault

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the shocking abduction and assault of a Yemeni newspaper editor this week in the capital, Sanaa.

Four men seized Jamal Amer, editor of the weekly Al-Wasat, as he returned home from his office at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Amer told CPJ that the men bundled him into a waiting car, blindfolded and bound him, and, after changing cars, drove him to a desolate area outside of the city. Amer said the men beat him with their fists and accused him of getting funding from the U.S. and Kuwaiti embassies, Amer said. One of the men warned him about defaming unspecified “officials.”

Amer said he was released about four hours later. In a particularly disturbing observation, Amer said he believes the initial car belonged to the Yemeni Republican Guard, based on the numeric configuration of its license plate, “11121/2.”

Yemeni journalists told CPJ that Amer’s newspaper has been a harsh critic of your government and frequently publishes stories about corruption and government misconduct. Recent articles have addressed government nepotism and authorities’ response to rioting last month.

The attack against Amer is the latest in a string of thefts, threats, and violent attacks against journalists in your country over the past year. This morning, burglars broke into the Sanaa office of The Associated Press and stole computers, a fax machine, and a camera. Last month, police assaulted and arrested several journalists covering the riots that followed the government’s decision to halt fuel subsidies. In July, Haji al-Jehafi, editor of the weekly newspaper Al-Nahar, was wounded when he opened a letter bomb addressed to him. Al-Jehafi said he had received threats from “an influential social figure after criticizing his practices with the ordinary citizens of his area,” a local newspaper reported.

This year, while speaking to the Sanaa Inter-Governmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the Role of the ICC, you said: “Human rights are tightly connected to democracy and the state of law and order. … We should remove anything that contradicts them and stand against all forms of discrimination, oppression, and exploitation for the human being and his rights.”

Unpunished attacks on journalists have a debilitating effect on the rule of law, human rights, and freedom of expression. The possibility that government agents may have been involved in some of these attacks, including this week’s assault on Jamal Amer, demands decisive action on the part of the Yemeni government.

We urgently call on you to take all necessary steps to ensure that Yemeni law enforcement officials bring to justice those responsible for the vicious attack against Jamal Amer and other journalists targeted in recent months. The failure to do so would send a message that the Yemeni government tolerates such attacks.

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. We look forward to your reply.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director