At least three journalists abducted in Yemen

New York, May 22, 2013–At least three journalists have been held hostage by armed tribesmen for a week in Yemen, according to news reports.

The journalists–Yassin Alzikri, editor-in-chief for Economic Media magazine; Ibrahim al-Ashmori, president of the reports division of Al-Thawra daily newspaper; and Ahmed al-Shamiri, writer for the Saudi Okaz daily newspaper–were abducted in Marib province on May 15, according to news reports.

The journalists were headed to the eastern province of Mahrah for an unspecified reporting mission. News accounts reported that there were at least two other journalists with the group, but offered conflicting details. Reports said that Mohammed al-Shamiri, a cameraman for Yemen Digital Media, and Noman al-Asbahi, a writer for Al-Sahwa weekly newspaper, had also been abducted and then released on Friday, while other sources said the two journalists fled and found refuge with a local sheikh.

Several reports named the tribal leader Yahia Saleh al-Masmi as responsible for the kidnapping. Al-Masmi told the English language newspaper Yemen Times that he is seeking payment from the government amounting to 20 million riyals (almost US$100,000) for every tribesman killed in previous clashes with the government.

The daily newspaper Yemen al-Youm interviewed another individual, Mohammed Saleh Mosalamy, who claimed to be one of the abductors and said the journalists would not be released until the government had met the group’s demands. Mareb Press cited an anonymous source who said the kidnappers were attempting to pressure the government to employ them to protect local oil pipelines. Yemen al-Youm said Mosalamy said the group would attack the pipelines if the government did not cooperate.

Mosalamy also told Yemen al-Youm that his tribesmen’s homes were destroyed during the aerial bombardment of Habab Valley a few months ago. It wasn’t immediately clear what events Mosalamy was referring to, but in December, the Yemeni government launched an offensive against tribesmen suspected of repeatedly sabotaging oil pipelines in the Habab Valley, according to Agence France-Presse.

It is not clear if the abductors belong to the same tribe targeted in the December clashes that left at least 10 tribesmen and seven soldiers dead.

“We are very concerned about the well-being of Yassin Alzikri, Ibrahim al-Ashmori, and Mohammed al-Shamiri and we ask that they be released immediately,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour.

The abductions come amid a disturbing rise in violations against the Yemeni press in the past two months, CPJ research shows.

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