New York, August 23, 2019 — Yemeni authorities should cease arresting journalists and making the dangerous work of Yemen’s press even more difficult, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On August 19, Yemeni military authorities arrested journalists Munir Talal, Mahfouz al-Baaithi, and Yahya al-Baaithi at a hotel in the city of Taiz and accused them of being members of the media wing of the Tarek Afash brigades, a militia operating on Yemen’s western coast, according to Talal and Nabil Alosaidi, head of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate’s training committee, an advocacy group and professional organization, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app.
The three journalists were detained at a local military intelligence headquarters until they were released on August 22, according to Talal and Alosaidi, who denied that the journalists worked with Tarek Afash. Authorities confiscated the journalists’ phones during their arrests and returned them upon their release, according to Talal.
“All sides to Yemen’s conflict seem to be in a horserace to see who can target the most journalists in areas under their control,” Justin Shilad, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa senior researcher, said. “Yemeni authorities must cease harassing Yahya al-Baaithi, Mahfouz al-Baithi, and Munir Talal, as well as all other journalists throughout the country.”
Upon his release, military intelligence authorities told Talal, a freelance journalist and former editor-in-chief of the news website for the Yemeni Ministry of Culture and editor of the website Yemen Daily, that they would monitor his movements, and demanded he stay in the area and refrain from writing or publishing anything about his detention, Talal said.
Talal characterized the arrest as “like a kidnapping.” He said his jailers repeatedly accused him of working with Tarek Afash, but would not say if he was being formally charged with a crime.
Yahya al-Baaithi and Mahfouz, his brother, lived in Aden until recently, where they wrote and reported for publications including the government-run al-Thawra newspaper, the government-affiliated Aden Media Center, and the 14 October newspaper, which was formerly government-run, Alosaidi told CPJ.
A spokesperson for the Police Media Center in Taiz told CPJ that the journalists were detained after entering Taiz without permission from authorities, and because they entered during a time when there were clashes in the city. The spokesperson added that the journalists were released and that authorities apologized to them.
CPJ messaged the Yemeni Armed Forces Media Center for comment but did not receive any response.
CPJ has documented violations against journalists by the Houthis and by forces allied with the Yemeni government or the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition supporting it. Earlier this month, Houthi gunmen abducted former journalist Abdel Hafiz al-Samadi, and last month Yemeni security forces arrested journalist Yahya al-Sawari in Al-Mahra governorate and, according to local media, handed him over to Saudi forces stationed in the area.
Editor’s note: The spelling of Tareq Afash has been corrected in the second, third, and sixth paragraphs.