Journalist attacked twice in a week amid worsening press freedom crisis

New York, December 9, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the beating and intimidation of Mohammad Sadiq al-Odaini, head of a Yemeni independent press freedom group. Al-Odaini, secretary-general of the Center for Training and Protecting Journalist Freedom, told CPJ that earlier this week he was threatened at gunpoint by a man he recognized as a member of the security forces. A few days later the same man assaulted him along with two other attackers.

Al-Odaini said he believed he was targeted because of his organization’s annual report published last month that accused the authorities of failing to investigate attacks on the press.

On December 5, a man who al-Odaini identified as security officer Asaad Ali Hezam al-Aayawi, pointed a pistol at al-Odaini’s head and accused him of being a traitor, the journalist said. The officer, who showed al-Odaini his badge, is a well-known figure in the area, the journalist said. On December 8, the same man along with two masked men dragged al-Odaini from his house in the capital Sana’a around 9:30 p.m. and beat him. They tried to enter the house but left after neighbors intervened. The attackers returned later and stayed outside his home until 2 a.m. Al-Odaini called the police but they did not arrive until after daybreak.

“We are outraged by the attacks on Mohammad Sadiq al-Odaini,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “The failure of the Yemeni authorities to identify and bring to justice those behind such assaults and intimidation suggests official tolerance for these violent and illegal acts. The government’s inaction is deeply alarming.”

After the attacks al-Odaini filed a complaint with both the local police and security authorities but they have failed to investigate. Al-Odaini said the lack of concern for the first attack encouraged the second, and his family feared more attacks.

In a sharp deterioration of press freedom in recent months, government officials and suspected state agents have targeted several Yemeni journalists with threats, brutal assaults, abductions, and criminal lawsuits. No has been held accountable for these acts.