In Yemen, journalists face threats from all directions

New York, April 18, 2013–Yemeni authorities must investigate a series of assaults on the press in the past two weeks and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. A bomb was discovered at a building that houses media outlets and three journalists received death threats, according to news reports and journalists who spoke to CPJ.

“Yemeni journalists face an array of threats from a wide range of sources,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator. “Authorities must apprehend the people who are planting bombs and making death threats against journalists.”

Police defused a bomb hidden in a black bag on Wednesday at the entrance of a building housing the daily newspaper Al-Masdar and the Yemen Youth TV channel in Sana’a, the paper reported. An expert from the Ministry of Interior told Al-Masdar that such an explosive was often used by military intelligence, and said the bomb had parts from Russia and the U.S.

No group has taken responsibility for planting the device. It is unclear who the bomb was supposed to target.

In an unrelated case, Abdul-Raqeeb al-Hudayyani, editor-in-chief of the news website Aden Online, told CPJ that he received anonymous death threats after his website published an article on March 5 that alleged corruption within the government-owned daily 14 October. The article said the paper had used money to print pictures of a southern secessionist leader and former vice president of Yemen. The paper denied the accusations and said Aden Online had cited forged documents. More than a month later, a judge told al-Hudayyani the paper had filed a case against him for forging documents, the journalist said.

Al-Hudayyani told CPJ that he had also been threatened this year after criticizing the southern secessionist movement in Yemen.

In another case, Mohammed Ayesh, editor-in-chief of the daily independent Al-Oula, told CPJ he has received several death threats in phone messages since April 9. The threats, originating from both domestic and foreign numbers, threatened to cut off his hand and tongue.

Ayesh told CPJ that the individuals identified themselves as residents defending the “honor” of Marib province. Al-Oula had published an article on April 9 accusing groups in the province of sabotaging power lines and causing power outages across Yemen. But Ayesh said the threats could actually be an attempt to silence the paper, which has published several articles critical of the government and religious groups. He said unidentified gunmen angry at the paper’s coverage of the government had attempted to storm the newspaper’s headquarters in Sana’a last August.

The local media watchdog Freedom Foundation also reported that a journalist with the daily newspaper Al-Thawra, Mohammed Qa’ed al-Azizi, was threatened by gunmen last Tuesday in Sana’a. Al-Thawra reported that the assailants demanded that the journalist stop writing about corruption. Freedom Foundation told CPJ that the incident may be related to the paper’s recent investigation of illegal prisons run by tribal leaders in Sana’a.

In an unrelated episode, three unidentified gunmen on April 7 briefly abducted Naif Hassan and Nashwan Dammaj, editors from the daily independent Al-Sharea, while they were on a reporting trip in the northern province of Al-Jawf, the paper reported. The assailants took the journalists to a nearby village, where they held them for half an hour before armed tribal group members ordered their release. The journalists were unharmed.

  • For more data and analysis on Yemen, visit CPJ’s Yemen page here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The text of this alert has been modified to reflect that Mohammed Qa’ed al-Azizi is a journalist with Al-Thawra, and not the director, as was previously stated.