Journalist held in Yemen; attacks in Kurdistan, West Bank

April 20, 2011 4:21 PM ET

New York, April 20, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Yemeni authorities today to explain why they have held prominent journalist Ali Salah Ahmed since Tuesday without revealing his location or charging him with a crime. 

On Tuesday, security forces detained Ahmed, an anchor for the privately owned news channel Suhail, with ties to the opposition party Al-Islah, upon his arrival from Germany, according to local news reports and a CPJ interview. Local journalist Samia al-Aghbry told CPJ that Ahmed had sent a text message to the Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate (YJS) informing them of his detention. Since then, his cell phone has been switched off, and his whereabouts are unknown. Ahmed worked for several years as the program director of the official state-run television station Yamania but resigned in 2009 denouncing government attempts to manipulate news coverage of civil unrest in southern Yemen, al-Aghbry told CPJ. The YJS condemned the arrest in a statement released on Tuesday.

"We are concerned about the well-being of Ali Salah Ahmed," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director. "We call on the Yemeni authorities to release him immediately."

At least one other journalist is missing in Yemen and believed to be in government custody. Ahmad al-Mohamadi, a reporter for Suhail, has been missing since being called in for questioning Saturday by the Republican Guards.

Elsewhere in the region:

In Iraqi Kurdistan, several journalists told CPJ today that anti-riot police attacked them on Monday while covering protests in Arbil. Among those assaulted were Jiyar Omer, a reporter for independent weekly Hawlati, Shiwan Sidi of the independent weekly magazine Civil, and Mariwan Mala Hassan, a reporter for the satellite news station Kurdistan News Network (KNN). Sidi told CPJ that security forces had beat journalists, confiscated their cameras and ordered them to leave the scene. He was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of a broken wrist. Mala Hassan told CPJ that he and two KNN cameramen had been handcuffed and taken to a police station where they were detained for two hours.

"We call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to make it clear to security personnel that it will not tolerate attacks on journalists," CPJ's Mahoney said. "The government must ensure that journalists are not attacked or threatened in an effort to censor coverage."

In the West Bank, three photographers--Jaafar Zahid Ashtiya of Agence France-Presse, Nassir Ashtiya of The Associated Press, and Wajdi Mohamed of Austria Presse Agentur--were assaulted Tuesday while covering clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in Burin village, south of Nablus, according to regional news reports and a CPJ interview. Zahid Ashtiya told CPJ that he sustained an injury to his shoulder when protesters attacked him and his colleagues with stones. "We tried to leave the scene but we were stopped by the Israeli security forces," Zahid Ashtiya told CPJ. "My colleague Wajdi Mohamed explained that we were journalists but instead of letting us go, they beat him with a rifle butt and broke his nose."

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