Yemeni court gives journalist 3 months in jail

New York, January 19, 2010—A journalist at a Yemeni weekly was sentenced on Saturday, in absentia, to three months in jail and was banned from writing for a year. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Sana’a court’s decision and calls on the Yemeni judiciary to reverse the sentence on appeal.

Anisa Mohammed Ali Othman, journalist with the independent weekly Al-Wasat was convicted on charges of “insulting the president” after she wrote two articles about government corruption in July 2007. The court also banned her from working as a journalist for a year and fined her editor, Jamal Amer, 10,000 rials (US$50), according to news reports. Othman told CPJ that she has not yet begun serving her sentence and that she plans to file an appeal in coming days,

“We condemn the continued harassment of journalists in Yemen, including the prison sentence given to Anissa Ali Othman, and call on the appeals court to reverse the decision,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We are deeply concerned by the increasingly repressive conditions under which Yemeni journalists work.”

Othman told CPJ that she was not notified that her hearing would take place on Saturday. “Neither my lawyer nor I were present in court,” she said. “The court appointed a lawyer for me and sentenced me without giving me the chance to defend myself. Journalists in Yemen are working under constant threat.”

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