U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is seen at the White House in Washington on August 23, 2021. CPJ called on Sullivan to press Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to improve the press freedom situation in Yemen (AP/Susan Walsh)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan must advocate for press freedom in meetings with Saudi Arabia and UAE

New York, September 27, 2021 – U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan should advocate for an end to press freedom violations in Yemen and throughout the Persian Gulf region as he meets with leaders from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Sullivan is traveling to the region today to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman, and unspecified U.A.E. officials to discuss the ongoing conflict in Yemen, according to news reports.

“Given the ongoing Saudi and Emirati role in the conflict in Yemen, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan must push both countries’ leaders to end press freedom violations committed by parties they support, and call for all sides to end attacks on journalists in Yemen as a first step to any peace settlement,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Additionally, the U.S. should address Saudi and Emirati leaders’ press freedom records throughout the region, including the use of spyware, and make it clear that security concerns are not a free pass for targeting journalists.”

Forces loyal to the Saudi-backed internationally recognized Yemeni government have detained journalists, and those loyal to the U.A.E.-backed secessionist Southern Transitional Council have held journalists for months and raided news outlets, as CPJ has documented. Amid violations from all sides, including the Houthis sentencing four journalists to death, journalists have told CPJ that they fear for the future of independent journalism in the country.

Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also deployed spyware and surveillance technology extensively in the region and around the world, as CPJ has documented, making both countries’ press freedom records an international concern, particularly ahead of the October 2 anniversary of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.