New York, June 9, 2021 – Yemen’s breakaway Southern Transitional Council must end its raids of Yemeni government-aligned media outlets in the southern city of Aden and allow all journalists to operate freely in territories under its control, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On June 2, forces aligned with the Southern Transitional Council raided an office building of the state-run broadcaster Saba news agency in Aden, forced out the employees and the security guards, seized their keys at gunpoint, and told the journalists that the forces were acting on the orders of the council’s president, Aidarous al-Zubaidi, to take over the news outlet and run it under the name “Aden News Network,” according to a statement on Facebook by the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate. Saba and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights also issued statements condemning the raid, but did not provide additional details.
According to a source with knowledge of the matter who requested anonymity for security reasons, the journalists remain locked out of the Saba offices but continue to report for the outlet from their homes and internet cafes.
The Southern Transitional Council, a secessionist group backed by the United Arab Emirates, controls Aden and some surrounding areas in southern Yemen and has moved to solidify control over Yemeni government institutions in these areas, despite a power-sharing deal between the council and the Yemeni government, according to news reports.
On June 7, forces aligned with the Southern Transitional Council stormed another building in Aden belonging to Saba, according to a second Facebook statement from the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, which did not provide further details. On June 6, the private Yemeni newspaper Al-Masdar reported on a third raid by council forces of Al-Thawra, a government-aligned newspaper, but did not specify the date or provide additional details.
CPJ confirmed the second and third raids with the same source, who said that in both of those raids the Southern Transitional Council forces were similarly armed.
“With its recent raids on government-affiliated media offices, the Southern Transitional Council is making it clear that it draws no distinction between political actors and journalists doing their jobs,” CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad said. “The Southern Transitional Council must stop threatening journalists in Aden and areas under its control, and all parties in Yemen must cease targeting journalists.”
Reached by CPJ via messaging app, Mansour Saleh, a spokesperson for the Southern Transitional Council, denied that the group had raided any media offices and told CPJ that it was seeking to renovate the buildings and operate them under council-controlled institutions. Saleh said one of the Saba buildings is “currently just a ruined building, inhabited by snakes and insects.”
The raids come as forces loyal to the Southern Transitional Council have recently taken over other buildings in Aden belonging to the Yemeni government, according to Reuters.
In recent years, forces loyal to the Southern Transitional Council have assaulted and threatened journalists and detained a journalist and fixer for nearly six months. In June 2020, unknown gunmen shot and killed AFP contributor Nabil Hasan al-Quaety outside his home in Aden. His murder remains unsolved.