New York, February 26, 2018--Yemeni authorities should immediately release Awad Kashmeem and stop arbitrarily detaining critical journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Authorities on February 21 detained Kashmeem, the former governor of the board of directors for the government-aligned newspaper November 30, in Mokalla, Hadramout Province, according to Yemeni Journalists Syndicate co-chair Nabeel Alosaidi and news reports.
Alosaidi told CPJ that members of the Yemeni Army's elite security forces detained Kashmeem on the orders of Hadramout Governor Faraj al-Bahasni. The syndicate co-chair said he received reports that Kashmeem is being held at military intelligence headquarters in Mokalla, though Alosaidi added that authorities deny that the journalist is being detained there.
Yemeni military forces operating in Hadramout answer to United Arab Emirates military authorities, which are part of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition backing the internationally recognized Yemeni government based out of Aden fighting against the Ansar Allah rebel movement, commonly known as the Houthis.
"Awad Kashmeem's arbitrary detention by Yemeni authorities, with the backing of the coalition, shows that there is truly no safe space for journalists in Yemen," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said from Washington D.C. "Authorities in Hadramout should release Kashmeem immediately and set an example for Yemen as a whole by allowing journalists to do their work unencumbered."
CPJ contacted Hadramout Governor Faraj al-Bahasni via email but did not immediately receive a response. CPJ also left a voicemail with the media office of the UAE Embassy in Washington D.C. but did not immediately receive a response.
CPJ was unable to determine if Kashmeem had been charged with a crime.
On February 20, Kashmeem announced his resignation from the board of the Baktheer Foundation, which prints and publishes November 30, in a post on his Facebook page, and wrote that the provincial government withheld support for the publication after it reported on alleged corruption and other problems in the governorate. The same day, also on Facebook, Kashmeem criticized the conduct of the coalition forces' ongoing military campaign in the province.
Kashmeem also wrote for the Aden-based newspaper and website Aden al-Ghad, and his last column for the newspaper on February 7 similarly criticized the military campaign in the province for arming and empowering different militias and splintering the governorate, according to Alosaidi.
Additionally, the journalist worked as a regional representative for the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, Alosaidi told CPJ.
At least one journalist has been killed in Yemen this year, according to CPJ's research.