New York, February 17, 2011—Authorities in Bahrain and Yemen have escalated their physical attack on the press in order to censor coverage of spreading anti-government protests, the Committee to protect Journalists said today. Also, in Iraq, at least two journalists were attacked by guards for the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s building, local journalists told CPJ.
“Governments throughout the Middle East and North Africa cannot deny their citizens coverage of these momentous events across the region,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Local and international media must be allowed to cover the news.”
In Bahrain, ABC reporter Miguel Marquez was beaten early Thursday while covering a violent attempt by authorities to clear Lulu Square (Pearl Square) in Manama by what he described as “a gang of thugs.” Marques can be heard shouting “journalist” while being attacked in an audio recording posted on the network’s website. His camera was confiscated.
Several journalists also reported today that Bahraini authorities are barring journalists from entering the country. New York Times columnist Nickolas Kristof tweeted: “Bahrain barring journalists from entry at airport. King Hamad doesn’t want witnesses to his brutality.” Roy Gutman, a foreign desk editor for McClatchy Newspapers, told CPJ that McClatchy reporter Nancy Youssef was denied entry to the country.
In Yemen, photographers and camera operators were targeted today by pro-government supporters at anti-government protests. At least four photojournalists were attacked, beaten, and had their cameras confiscated: Ahmad Ghrasi from Agence France-Presse, Yahya Arhab from the European Pressphoto Agency, Amar Awd from Reuters, and Hasan Wataf from The Associated Press, according to local journalists. Al-Jazeera cameraman Samir al-Namri was beaten and had his camera smashed. Adel Abdel Mughni, a reporter for the Sana’a-based Al-Wahdawi opposition weekly was also attacked and had his camera confiscated, according to Al-Wahdawi. Al-Arabiya cameraman Abd al-Qawi al-Soufi was beaten by pro-government supporters and his camera broken.
In Iraq, Hemin Latif, a journalist working for the Sulaimaniya-based Destur news website, was shot and injured today while covering anti-government protests against unemployment and corruption, Mariwan Hama-Saeed, director of local press freedom group Metro Center, told CPJ. Dozens of protesters attacked the building of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Local journalists told CPJ that the guards for the building shot Latif while he was taking photos. Latif was briefly hospitalized and one of his fingers was broken. Guards also beat Rahman Gharib, who reports for Metro Center and Al-Sumaria News website, while he was covering the demonstration, Gharib told CPJ. He said three men from KDP’s security forces in military uniforms beat him. “I demand an official apology from KDP and an investigation into what had happened,” Gharib said. Two other journalists have been injured, according to the independent biweekly Hawlati. One of them is Alan Mohamed, a photographer with the local photo agency Metrography. The newspaper did not identify the second journalist. Two people were killed and 57 injured in the protests, according to local news reports.