In Yemen, editors detained as siege of newspaper continues

New York, January 6, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest today of the editor-in-chief and managing editor of the independent daily Al-Ayyam on the third day of a government siege of the compound that houses the paper’s offices in Aden.

Security forces entered Al-Ayyam’s offices and took into custody both Editor Hisham Bashraheel and his son, Hani Bashraheel, managing editor, according to local news reports and Samia al-Aghraby, chairwoman of the Freedoms Committee of the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate. The prosecutor’s office ordered the arrest, the same sources reported, although the charges have not been made public or been told to the editors’ family. According to Mohammed al-Amrawi, lawyer for Al-Ayyam, both journalists were flown to the capital, Sana’a.

Another of Hisham Bashraheel’s sons, Mohamed Bashraheel, has been in custody since Monday and was also flown to the capital, according to al-Amrawi. It was not clear why the government was persecuting the Bashraheels specifically.

On Monday, security forces besieged the paper’s building. At the time, journalists from different media outlets were conducting a sit-in outside the compound to protest the daily’s suspension since May. News reports said that at least nine people have been injured and two killed. Mohamed Bashraheel surrendered himself to authorities on Monday along with others at the sit-in, including activists and opposition politicians, in an attempt to diffuse the situation, according to al-Amrawi.

“We are troubled by the detention of Hisham Bashraheel, Hani Bashraheel, and Mohamed Bashraheel, and call on the Yemeni authorities to publicly disclose their whereabouts as well as the charges against them,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We are also concerned about Hisham Bashraheel’s health condition and ask the authorities to provide him with the medical care he requires.”

Hisham underwent open heart surgery last year and has needed regular medical care since, according to another of his sons, Bashraheel Bashraheel.

The Yemeni government’s recent crackdown on the media began in May 2009. CPJ has documented numerous recent attacks on the press, including the banning of newspapers, the detention of at least two other journalists without charge, and a previous armed attack on the offices of Al-Ayyam. CPJ research also shows that at least one journalist has disappeared in recent months under unclear circumstances.