New York, May 30, 2017–The deaths of two journalists and the serious injury of two others in the Yemeni city of Taiz late last week are a grim reminder of the risks journalists face reporting on the two-year-old conflict, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Cameramen Takieddin al-Hudhaifi and Wael al-Absi were killed on May 26 while covering fighting between Gulf-monarchy-backed forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and forces loyal to the Houthi militia and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on the eastern outskirts of the central Yemeni city of Taiz, according to local officials, news reports, and the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate. Cameraman Salahuddin al-Wahbani’s hand was injured, and Walid al-Qadasi suffered a more serious injury to his leg that ultimately required amputation, according to media reports.
“The deaths of cameramen Takieddin al-Hudhaifi and Wael al-Absi testify to the bravery journalists show every day covering the conflict in Yemen,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. “We call on all parties to the fighting in Yemen to take all steps possible to ensure the safety of journalists and other civilians, and to fully and credibly investigate the circumstances of their deaths.”
Mohammed al-Hudhaifi, Takieddin’s father, told CPJ that witnesses had told him that the journalists were filming near the frontline in eastern Taiz when they came under fire and took cover in a nearby building. According to another journalist who spoke on condition of anonymity because he travels between areas controlled by the rival parties to the conflict, a group of Houthi fighters fired a shell at the building where the journalists were hiding, killing al-Hudhaifi and al-Absi and wounding al-Wahbani and al-Qadasi. It was unclear whether the building was hit because the journalists were inside. Al-Hudhaifi’s father said witnesses told him it was.
The same journalist, who knew al-Hudhaifi and al-Absi, added that both had also been injured while covering fighting last year.
The news website Elmaam.net reported that al-Hudhaifi was covering the fighting in Taiz for the Saudi government news channel Al-Akhbariya when he was killed, but worked as a freelance cameraman for many news outlets, including the news website Maareb Press, where his father works as a correspondent. Al-Akhbariya did not return CPJ’s request for comment.
Al-Absi worked for Yemen’s official satellite TV channel. Both were students at Taiz University: Al-Hudhaifi studied business administration and al-Absi studied mass communication.
In a May 26 statement to the press, the media office of Taiz’s governor, Ali Al-Moamari, claimed Al-Houthi forces targeted the journalists, without elaborating. In a May 26 statement, the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate cast the journalists’ killing as part of a consistent effort by the Houthis to target journalists.
Houthi and allied fighters surround Taiz. At least 16 civilians have been killed in shelling since last week, according to media reports.