New York, March 6, 2018 - Yemeni authorities in Aden should investigate an attack on a media foundation's office and ensure that journalists working in areas under their control can operate freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Armed men raided the offices of al-Shomou Foundation on March 1 and set fire to the presses it uses to print the weekly Al-Shomou and daily Akhbar al-Youm, according to the local human rights group Rights Radar and news reports.
"The arson attack on al-Shomou Foundation's newspapers shows that journalists are being targeted with impunity across every inch of Yemen," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour in Washington, D.C. "All authorities holding power in Aden must immediately investigate this attack and ensure the safety of journalists operating in areas they purport to control."
Video footage from one of the foundation's security cameras shows armed men rushing inside the building and ushering the staff out at gunpoint. Footage from a second camera inside the printing room shows the attackers pointing guns at the staff and ordering the press to be shut off. After herding staff out of the room, one of the gunmen is seen pouring a liquid into the printing press and over the newspapers, before retreating to the door and setting light to the liquid.
The media foundation and its papers, which focus on Yemeni news, are considered close to the internationally recognized government and Vice-President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Yemeni Journalists Syndicate co-chair Nabeel Alosaidi told CPJ.
Saif al-Haderi, president of al-Shomou Foundation, told CPJ the attackers arrived in vehicles and wore uniforms consistent with the "Security Belt" forces that operate in and around Aden, the seat of the internationally recognized Yemeni government. The forces are under the control of the Yemeni government, but are armed, funded, trained, and work as part of a coalition led by the United Arab Emirates. CPJ could not immediately determine if the foundation will be able to continue publishing.
The UAE military attaché did not immediately respond to CPJ's request for comment, sent via the website of the UAE Embassy in Washington, D.C. CPJ could not verify the affiliation of the assailants.
The attack came a little more than a week after CPJ documented how Yemeni Army elite forces, which also work under the UAE coalition, detained Yemeni journalist Awad Kashmeem at a checkpoint near Mokalla in Hadramout province on February 21. Kashmeem, who wrote critically about the coalition's campaign, is still in custody, according to Alosaidi.