New York, September 25, 2009—The Committee to Protect journalists calls on Yemeni authorities to clarify the circumstances of the disappearance and current whereabouts of Muhammad al-Maqaleh, editor of Aleshteraki, a Web site affiliated with the opposition Socialist Party. Al-Maqaleh was detained by unidentified men on September 18 in Sana’a, according to local news reports.
A local journalist, who asked to remain anonymous for fear
of retribution, told CPJ that although many independent and opposition Web
sites have covered the ongoing military offensive in the northwestern town of
Two Yemeni rights groups, human rights group Hud and journalists’ group Women Journalists Without Chains, covered the disappearance on their Web sites. Both directly accuse security forces of being behind the detention. Multiple local news sites also report possible government involvement, citing a history of similar incidents.
“The government must disclose all the information it has
about the disappearance of Muhammad al-Maqaleh,” said CPJ Middle East and North
Africa Program Coordinator
Al-Maqaleh’s disappearance came after Aleshteraki posted,
on September 15, graphic pictures of civilian victims of airstrikes in the Saada
region where the military has been battling rebels, local journalists told CPJ.
Since 2004, regular battles have erupted several times between the Shiite
al-Huthi rebels and government troops in the northwestern region of
In 2007, plainclothes men in an unmarked vehicle abducted, threatened, and severely beat journalist and editor Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani. At the time, other journalists told CPJ that they believed government agents were behind his detention. CPJ has documented similar incidents in 2005 and 2006.
On Thursday, journalists in Sana’a staged a third sit-in protest demanding authorities disclose the fate of al-Maqaleh, according to local press reports. The sit-ins were organized by the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate. In April 2008, al-Maqaleh was imprisoned for two months for “mocking and insulting the judiciary” after he burst into laughter during trial of renowned Yemeni journalist Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani.
In recent months, media outlets and journalists in