At least one Yemeni journalist taken captive by Houthi forces

New York, February 19, 2016 – Pro-Houthi forces took journalist Abdallah al-Minefi from his home in the city of Dhamar, roughly 50 miles south of Sanaa, late on Thursday, his employer reported. His current location is unknown.

Al-Minefi is an editor of the news website Al-Sahwa Net, which is critical of Ansar Allah, more commonly known as the Houthis. Access to the website was blocked in Yemen in March 2015.

“Every time a journalist is taken, it increases the fear that leads Yemeni journalists to censor their reporting,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Senior Research Associate Jason Stern. “We call for the immediate release of Abdallah al-Minefi, and all journalists held in Yemen.”

Close to the time of al-Minefi was taken, pro-Houthi forces also took Hussein al-Aysi, media officer for the al-Islah political party, from his home in Dhamar, according to news reports. Al-Islah opposes the Houthi forces and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is currently allied with the Houthis. Al-Aysi was held by militiamen affiliated with the Houthis last year, alongside journalists Youssef al-Ayzari and Abdullah Qabil. Al-Ayzari and Qabil were both found dead in the rubble of a building that had been hit by a Saudi coalition airstrike in Dhamar several days after they were taken. Al-Aysi managed to escape, with injuries, according to Yemeni media reports.

Al-Sahwa Net posted news of al-Minefi and al-Aysi’s capture on its Facebook page, and described al-Aysi as a correspondent. CPJ’s request for more information from the outlet on al-Aysi’s reporting was not immediately answered.

On Friday, the Yemeni journalist’s syndicate said that one of its members, Mohamed Shamsan, was also held by pro-Houthi forces, according to news reports. Shamsan is the head of the syndicate’s training committee. Reports did not specify where or when Shamsan was held, but said that he was kept in a prison in the 14th October district of Sanaa.

CPJ’s emails to the syndicate requesting more information on Shamsan’s case were not immediately answered.

Air strikes, shelling, and street-by-street urban combat have made Yemen one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist. Journalist Ahmed al-Shaibani was killed on Tuesday, allegedly by pro-Houthi forces, as he reported on the shelling of a factory in the city. Seventeen-year-old cameraman Hashim al-Hamran was seriously injured in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in the town of Dahyan, Saada province, while reporting on the effects of a previous airstrike. He died of his injuries the following day.