Reporter who covered Yemeni unrest is held without charge

New York, December 28, 2009A Yemeni reporter is being held without charge after being arrested on Sunday while covering clashes between security forces and separatists in Yemen’s southern province of Dhala, according to local news reports. The arrest is the latest attempt by the government to silence media outlets and journalists covering civil unrest in the southern part of the country.

Khaled al-Jahafi, a journalist for the news Web site Al-Sahwa Net, was taken into police custody as he was photographing the confrontation in Dhala, according to local news reports and the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate. The reporter was allegedly beaten by police officers, according to those sources.

“We condemn the continued harassment of journalists in Yemen, particularly the most recent arrest of Khaled al-Jahafi,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on Yemeni authorities to release him immediately. We also demand that the government investigate his reported beating and punish those responsible.”

Security forces had tried to arrest al-Jahafi once before, in October, at Dhala University where he teaches, according to news reports. CPJ has documented numerous other Yemeni government attacks on the press, including the banning of newspapers, the detention of at least two other journalists without charge, and an armed attack on the offices of a newspaper. CPJ research also shows that at least one journalist has disappeared in recent months under circumstances leading many to suspect government involvement.

“Khaled’s case is another blow to press freedom in Yemen and shows the difficult conditions under which journalists are working,” Samia al-Aghraby, chairwoman of the Freedoms Committee of the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate, told CPJ. “The government needs to prevent the recurrence of arrests and assaults on journalists in the performance of their duties.”