Yemeni government fails to seriously investigate cameraman’s beating

New York, November 4, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by the failure of the Yemeni government to investigate the severe beating of cameraman Mujeeb Suwailih by Yemeni police officers on October 29. Attacks on the press have intensified throughout 2005, but the Yemeni government has not prevented or seriously investigated them, CPJ research shows

Suwailih, 34, a Yemeni cameraman for the pan-Arab news channel Al-Arabiya, and Najib Al-Sharabi, a news correspondent for the Saudi Arabian-based satellite channel Al-Ekhbariyya, were covering a strike by employees of a public textile factory over unpaid wages in Sana’a when they were attacked by security officers. Suwailih was beaten when he refused to hand over his camera, suffering internal bleeding, three broken ribs, and severe bruising on his legs, an Al-Arabiya spokesman told CPJ.

Both journalists were detained for several hours at a nearby police station and threatened by the same officers who attacked them earlier. Suwailih was hospitalized and released on Monday, CPJ sources said. On Wednesday, he returned to a local hospital because of complications arising from injuries, they said.

The Yemeni Ministry of Interior said it would launch an investigation into the attack, but no police officer has been held responsible as yet. Local journalists say they are fearful of both police and local officials’ bodyguards due to frequent, unpunished attacks.

In August, for example, four men seized Jamal Amer, editor of the weekly Al-Wasat, and bundled him into a waiting car. Amer said the men punched him, accused him of getting funding from the U.S. and Kuwaiti embassies, and warned him about defaming unspecified “officials.” Amer said he was released about four hours later. He said he believes a car used in the abduction belonged to the Yemeni Republican Guard, based on the numeric configuration of its license plate. Amer’s newspaper has been a harsh critic of the Yemeni government and frequently publishes stories about corruption, nepotism, and government misconduct.

“We urge the Yemeni government to seriously investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the brutal attack on Mujeep Suwailih,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Unpunished attacks on journalists have a debilitating effect on the rule of law, human rights, and freedom of expression, and they do great damage to Yemen’s reputation as a country that tolerates critical media.”