In Yemen, journalist sentenced to 14 months in jail

New York, July 16, 2009–The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Yemeni court of appeals to overturn a jail sentence it handed down on Wednesday against journalist Anis Mansour from the suspended independent daily Al-Ayyam. 

A lower court in Al-Qabitta, Luhj province, found Mansour guilty of “harming national unity, provoking sedition and rebellion, and inciting people in the streets” and “taking part in unauthorized protests and promoting secessionist slogans.” He was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment, according to local news reports.

The case was initially filed in February by a government-affiliated group called the Society to Defend the Unity of Yemen on charges related to Mansour’s coverage of the ongoing unrest in the south of the country. Mansour said security agents he had criticized in his articles testified against him. He told CPJ that his lawyers will appeal the ruling.

“We condemn this harsh ruling against Anis Mansour, who was reporting on the turmoil in the south of Yemen, a matter of great public interest,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy director. “The government must end its crackdown on the press and in particular opposition and independent newspapers.”

In early April, government forces and armed protesters, who accuse authorities of marginalizing the southern region, violently clashed. The government reacted by sending troops to repress the demonstrations and imposing censorship on the independent and opposition media.

Al-Ayyam, a popular Aden-based independent newspaper in Yemen, has been the target of a harsh crackdown by authorities over the last few months. Copies of the newspaper were confiscated and burned, and the paper’s offices were besieged by security forces. It has been unable to publish since May 4.