Pro-government forces are seen near Mukalla airport, in Yemen, on November 29, 2018. Authorities in Mukalla recently detained at least three journalists. (AFP/Saleh al-Obeidi)

At least 3 journalists detained overnight in Yemen, pressured not to cover protests

On February 18, 2021, police in Hadramout Governorate, Yemen, detained at least three journalists and forced at least two of them to sign statements promising not to cover political protests in the region, according to the a statement by the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, a local press freedom group, and Mohammed al-Yezidi, a local reporter familiar with the detentions, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

Police in Mukalla, the governorate’s capital, arrested Moataz al-Naqeeb, a reporter for the local broadcaster Yemen Shabab; Zakariya Thabit, a correspondent for the local broadcaster al-Mahariya; and Hala Badhawi, a freelance reporter, while they covered a protest in front of the city’s main government office, according to al-Yezidi, that statement, news reports, and Yemen Shabab. Authorities held them for at least 24 hours, al-Yezidi said.

In an interview with local news website al-Mushahid, Thabit and al-Naqeeb both said that they were released without charge after authorities forced them to sign documents vowing not to cover protests in the governorate; authorities also demanded that Badhawi sign a similar pledge but she refused.

Protests have recently been held at the city’s government building every Thursday, demanding better government responses to local quality of life issues, including the reopening of the local airport, infrastructure improvements, and the payment of salaries and pensions to military personnel and retirees, according to news reports. Hadramout Governorate’s authorities are allied with the Yemeni national government and receive security support from the United Arab Emirates, according to reports.

In late 2020, al-Yezidi went into hiding after Hadramout authorities ordered his arrest and after unknown individuals tried twice to abduct him, as CPJ documented at the time. Al-Yezidi told CPJ in late February 2021 that he remained in hiding.

CPJ emailed Hadramout Governor Faraj al-Bahasni for comment, but did not receive any response.