Yemeni journalist shot dead in series of attacks on state-run media

New York, August 19, 2014 — The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by a string of attacks on Yemeni journalists working for state-run outlets in the past week. At least one journalist has been killed and another survived an assassination attempt, according to the Ministry of Information and news reports.

Abdul Rahman Hamid al-Din, a director and producer for the state-run Sanaa Radio, succumbed to his wounds in a hospital on August 16 after being shot in the head the day before, the Ministry of Information said. News reports said al-Din was shot in Sanaa on Friday by unknown gunmen.

“The killing of Abdul Rahman Hamid al-Din is tragic proof that the crosshairs remain fixed on Yemeni journalists,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. “We call on all parties in Yemen to end the targeting of journalists, who are protected as civilians regardless of their affiliation or perspective.”

On the same day that al-Din died, an explosive device was discovered underneath the car of Ibrahim al-Abiad, the director for the state-run Yemen TV, the ministry said. Colonel Mohammed Hizam, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that an unidentified man alerted the family after he saw another man placing a black bag beneath al-Abiad’s car, which was parked outside his home in Sanaa, according to the Yemen Times. The police defused the device.

Sanaa Radio and Yemen TV are two of the many radio and television stations in Yemen run out of the Yemen General Corporation for Radio and TV, part of the Ministry of Information.

It is not clear who was behind the attacks or whether they were related to each other. However, the Ministry of Information said the attacks were not just directed against the journalists, but against all media outlets reporting on Yemen’s ongoing struggle against terrorism. It added that the attacks would not stop journalists from “upholding their role in confronting the monstrous crimes of terrorism against society and the state.”

The killing and attempted assassination come amid a flare up in the perennial political tensions and military clashes in the country between the federal government and various opposition groups. At least 16 Yemeni security forces have been killed in clashes with Al-Qaeda militants this month, according to The Associated Press. On Monday, thousands of protesters rallied in Sanaa after Abdul Malek al-Houthi, a Houthi tribal leader, called for anti-government demonstrations against a decision to curb fuel subsidies, according to Reuters.

The Yemen media watchdog Freedom Foundation reported that the killing and attempted assassination were the latest in a series of death threats and kidnappings against Yemeni journalists. On July 31, journalists Yousif Hazeb and Yousif al-Qahmi were detained by Houthi gunmen in the province of Amran, where they had been filming homes destroyed in recent fighting, according to the Freedom Foundation. Hazeb, a journalist for the website Mareb Press, and al-Qahmi, a freelance journalist, were released unharmed after four days on the condition that they did not report what happened to them, news reports said. Ali al-Bakhiti, a member of the Houthi political council, told Al-Jazeera that he condemned any violations and explained that parties did not always control all the elements operating in dangerous conflict areas.

On August 10, Jameel al-Jadabi, the editorial director for the website Almotamar, received a death threat by phone, warning him to prepare his funeral shroud, the website reported. Al-Jadabi said he was not aware of anyone having an issue with him, and that the threat came after a report was published claiming officials had wasted money while traveling. He did not specify which report but on August 5 he published an article for Almotamar claiming Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa had spent about $25,000 of public funds on leisure travel, citing unnamed government sources.

On the same day, the website for the official Saba news agency was defaced by a group of hackers called The Electronic Battalion of Yemen, according to news reports. The assailants replaced the website pages with a message accusing the agency of “manipulating people’s minds” with “misleading news and propaganda.”