Harassment, attacks continue in Yemen

New York, April 28, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned that Yemeni journalists continue to be assaulted and harassed, while authorities have shown no sign that they are bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Jamal Amer, editor of the weekly newspaper Al-Wasat, has been subjected to ongoing intimidation and harassment. On April 10, a known political security officer and four other men asked Amer’s neighbors to identify the editor’s apartment, provide the phone numbers of his children, name the schools his children attended, and provide the license plate of his car, Amer told CPJ. The visit came while Amer was traveling in the United States. Amer’s U.S. trip prompted the state-controlled newspaper Al-Mithaq to accuse him of being an agent of the West.

In August 2005, Amer was abducted for several hours by suspected security agents, who warned him against criticizing high-level government officials. Since then, Amer said, he has seen vehicles conducting surveillance.

CPJ is investigating other recent cases as well:

• Abed al-Mahthari, editor-in-chief of the independent weekly Al-Deyar, said he was targeted this month by suspected weapons traffickers in al-Sa’ada, in northern Yemen near the Saudi border. Al-Mahthari has investigated weapons trafficking and received several death threats as a result. Al-Mahthari said his car was being driven by a friend on April 19 when several gunmen took up pursuit. The assailants, apparently believing they had followed the editor, forced their way into the friend’s house, threatened the friend’s family at gunpoint, and stole the car, al-Mahthari said. The friend obtained the license plate of the perpetrators’ car, and al-Mahthari reported it to the police. Al-Mahthari said he has gone into hiding.

• Journalist Abdulfatah al-Hakimi suffered respiratory problems after an early-April attack in which two unidentified men sprayed a gas through his car window. He was taken to a hospital in Aden, where he remained for more than a week. Al-Hakimi, who was a deputy editor of the state-controlled daily 14 October, was fired last year after his writings became more critical of Yemeni authorities. In articles in the newspaper Al-Wasat and the Web site Shoura this year, he criticized changes in the appointment of government ministers. Al-Hakimi has also been highly critical of the government’s conduct in the Saada conflict.

Over the last two years, at least two dozen outspoken Yemeni journalists have been victims of assault, imprisonment, or spurious criminal lawsuits, while others have faced intimidation by security agents and smears in the state-controlled press, a CPJ investigation found. In January, Prime Minister Abdelqader Bajamma met with a CPJ delegation and promised his government would thoroughly investigate attacks against journalists.

“It’s more urgent than ever that the government make good on the prime minister’s promise,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Yemeni journalists continue to be targeted with threats and assaults, and Yemen’s international standing continues to erode as a result.”