Yemeni reporter who covered reputed crime gang is slain

New York, February 16, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder on Saturday of Muhammad al-Rabou’e, a Yemeni reporter for the monthly Al-Qahira who wrote several articles about the alleged activities of a reputed criminal group. Al-Jazeera and other news outlets said five individuals burst into Al-Rabou’e home in the district of Beni Qais, in Yemen’s northern province of Hajja, and shot him multiple times.

In an interview with CPJ today, Beni Qais Security Chief Abdelrazaq Azzaraq said police have arrested five members of the Aouni family, a reputed criminal group, in connection with the slaying. Azzaraq alleged that the suspects—Ahmad Aouni and four of his sons—carried out the murder in retaliation for the reporter’s coverage.

“We are saddened by the murder of Muhammad al-Rabou’e and offer our condolences to his family and colleagues,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We urge the prosecution to move quickly to ensure that the perpetrators are held to account.”

The five suspects had been arrested on charges of assaulting al-Rabou’e in December 2009, but prosecutors did not pursue charges in court, Azzaraq said. “We take full responsibility for releasing them in late 2009,” he said, “but we will make sure that they are brought to justice this time around.”

Al-Rabou’e had received several death threats in connection with his articles about the Aouni family’s activities, including alleged child trafficking, according to Al Qahira Editor-in-Chief Muhammad Darman. “Al-Rabou’e was brave and committed to his journalistic mission” Darman told CPJ. “He has uncovered many corruption cases in the course of his career and has received many death threats, but not once had he thought of putting an end to his work”