Yemeni journalists attacked; newspaper harassed

New York, May 3, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a series of anti-press attacks in Yemen over the past 10 days that have included assaults on two journalists, threats against two more, and the official harassment of a local newspaper.

“Yemeni journalists of all types have been attacked and threatened in recent days,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Authorities have a duty to enforce the law and bring an immediate end to these tactics designed to intimidate the press into silence.”

Anwar al-Bahri, a reporter for the official Saba news agency, was beaten by unidentified men who stormed into his home in the capital, Sana’a, on Monday, the agency reported. News accounts reported that the attackers belonged to Yemen’s most influential tribal group, the al-Ahmar family. Al-Bahri was beaten in front of his wife and children and was treated for unspecified injuries at a local hospital, news reports said.

Wael al-Absi, a journalist for the news website Aleshteraki, was photographing a protest in Freedom Square in Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, on April 24 when an unidentified man assaulted him, according to his employer. News accounts reported that the assailant was aligned with the security forces that oversee Freedom Square. Aleshteraki is affiliated with the Yemeni Socialist Party. Al-Absi was treated for head and eye injuries at a local hospital, news reports said.

On the same day, two journalists received threatening calls, according to news reports. An unidentified man called Fathi Abu al-Nasr, a journalist who contributes to several Yemeni news publications, and told him he’d be killed if he didn’t stop writing, according to news reports. The journalist, who has written in support of the revolution, is also critical of the Shiite rebels known as the Huthis in the northern Saada region, news reports said.

An unidentified man called Abdelqadir al-Mansoub, the head of the office of the news website Hshd in the city of Al-Hudaydah, and told him to be careful about his coverage of alleged corruption involving a local oil company, according to news reports. The caller said that if anything happened to al-Mansoub, it would be the journalist’s own fault.

The son of former President Ali Abdallah Saleh has also launched a campaign of harassment against a local newspaper. The weekly Al-Ahali reported on Tuesday that the office of Republican Guard Commander Ahmed Ali Abdallah Saleh had released a statement saying the paper had spied on military camps and cooperated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and that the paper’s staff should be prosecuted in military courts. Several local news websites loyal to Saleh also republished the story, according to news reports.

Al-Ahali had published an article on April 23 that said the commander had four Apache helicopters in a military camp in the village of Sanhan, the former president’s birthplace. The paper, which is affiliated with the leading opposition Islah party, has long been a critic of the Yemeni government and the military.

Al-Ahali has been attacked in the past. In April 2011, thousands of copies of the newspaper were confiscated, and in 2009, the Yemeni government barred the sale of the newspaper for a time, CPJ research shows.

CPJ documented a stream of attacks against journalists in Yemen since political unrest erupted last year, including deaths, physical assaults, detentions, harassments, and attacks on news outlets.