Journalists attacked, threatened amid Yemen protests

New York, April 29, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns an attack on Al-Jazeera journalists and threats against a Sky News Arabia news crew by anti-government protesters in Aden on Saturday–the latest in a wave of violence against the press in the country.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Yasser Hassan and cameraman Samir al-Nimri were beaten by dozens of supporters of Yemen’s southern secessionist movement in the southern city of Aden, a network spokesman told CPJ. Hassan was hospitalized with a broken nose and Nimri’s body was covered in bruises. A third crew member, correspondent Safa Karman, was unharmed, news reports said.

Thousands of protesters poured into Yemen’s streets on Saturday to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the start of the brief civil war between North and South Yemen, according to news reports. The military attempt to reassert South Yemen’s independence was crushed after three months in 1994, but the political movement supporting secession, known as Hirak, remains influential in the south.

News sources and the local press freedom group Freedom Foundation also reported that a Sky News correspondent, Mohammed al-Qadi, and an unnamed cameraman were threatened in Aden by protesters flourishing their daggers.

“We call on the Hirak leadership to hold its supporters accountable for this assault,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Hirak says it is a peaceful movement, and a full investigation would be one way to prove it.”

The Al-Jazeera spokesman told CPJ that members of Hirak gave the journalists permission to cover the protests, but they were attacked nonetheless and had their equipment and personal effects confiscated.

A spokesman for the Hirak movement, who said he tried to stop the attack as it happened, condemned the assailants and insisted the movement was peaceful. He promised to undertake efforts to recover the crew’s confiscated property, according to news reports.

This month, CPJ has documented a disturbing rise in attacks and threats against the Yemeni press, many of them in Aden.

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