New York, January 21, 2016 – Two journalists and a driver have gone missing and are believed to have been abducted in the Yemeni city of Taiz, their respective employers reported today. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for their immediate release and for anyone with information on their whereabouts to come forward.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Hamdi al-Bokari, Al-Masdar newspaper correspondent Abdul Aziz al-Sabri, and driver Munair al-Subaie disappeared shortly after having dinner together around 10 pm Monday in Taiz, the two news outlets reported. In a statement emailed to CPJ today, Al-Jazeera said al-Sabri was also working as a member of the network’s crew covering Taiz. Al-Masdar and Al-Jazeera each said they believe the three men had been abducted, adding that their car was found empty later that night.
“Security in Yemen has rapidly deteriorated in the past year, making it one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. “We call on all parties to cease targeting journalists and to free immediately all members of the media that they are holding.”
Residents of Taiz have endured a months-long siege as a patchwork of pro-government and Islamist groups resist attempts by rebel fighters loyal to Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis, to take the city. Doctors Without Borders, which was able to deliver medical supplies to the city on Saturday, posted on its website: “Airstrikes hit Taiz city on a daily basis, and residents live in fear of snipers, stray bullets and mortar shelling, which are being used indiscriminately by both warring groups.”
Al-Sabri was seriously injured last month when shrapnel hit his neck and shoulder while he was reporting on the fighting in Taiz, Al-Masdar reported at the time. He nonetheless continued to report throughout January.
Al-Bokari, in one of his last dispatches before he disappeared, reported on civilians killed by pro-Houthi fighters’ shelling of the city.
Al-Jazeera and Al-Masdar did not accuse any specific group of abducting their correspondents, but Al-Jazeera said in its statement to CPJ that the network was in touch with unspecified “related parties” to secure their release.
Yemen remains one of the most dangerous places for reporters in the world. On Sunday, freelance journalist Almigdad Mojalli became the fifth journalist to be killed by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes against Ansar Allah and its allies, according to CPJ research. At least three journalists have also been killed since 2014 as a result of abductions, bombings, and targeted assassinations carried out by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Yemeni journalists have also faced pressure from Ansar Allah and its allies, who have detained scores of journalists, activists, and political rivals since taking control of the capital in September 2014. Houthi gunmen raided the offices of both Al-Jazeera and Al-Masdar last March. In June 2015, Al-Masdar graphic designer Tawfiq al-Mansouri was one of nine journalists and activists detained by pro-Houthi forces in Sanaa. All nine are still being held.