New York, October 13, 2021 – The Ansar Allah group, known as the Houthis, must release journalist Youness Abdelsalam immediately and stop abducting and threatening members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Houthi forces detained Abdelsalam in the capital Sanaa in central Yemen on August 4 and have been holding him since at the Security and Intelligence Agency in the city, according to his brother, Sultan Abdelsalam and the journalist’s lawyer, Abdel Majeed Farea Sabra, who both spoke to CPJ via messaging app. Houthi forces have controlled Sanaa since 2014 and have effectively taken over government institutions formerly run by Yemen’s internationally recognized government, including intelligence agencies and the judiciary. Sabra and Abdelsalam’s brother said that the journalist has not been formally charged.
The independent online Yemeni newspaper Al-Masdar reported that Abdelsalam was apparently arrested after he left home in Sanaa to eat dinner at a nearby restaurant. The Houthis are holding at least four other journalists, all of whom face a death sentence, and have assaulted, imprisoned, and forced out journalists from areas under the group’s control over the last several years, as CPJ has documented.
“The Houthis’ campaign against journalists knows no bounds, and now more than ever the international community needs to take action,” CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad said. “The Houthis must release Youness Abdelsalam immediately and stop abducting journalists.”
Abdelsalam suffers from several health issues and his family has only been able to visit him once in prison since his arrest, the journalist’s brother told CPJ. Sabra, the lawyer, told CPJ that soldiers were present during the family visit and that the Houthis generally warn those in their custody not to talk about their condition or any charges they may face.
Sultan Abdelsalam told CPJ that his brother wrote for local newspapers in Yemen, though could not recall their names, as well as the private daily news website Almawqea Post. He said that his brother covered politics and wrote in opposition to both the Yemeni government and the Houthis. He said that his brother’s arrest may have been in response to the journalist’s Facebook posts criticizing organized religion and Houthi attacks on Marib.
In a separate incident, Ali al-Sakani, a journalist in Yemeni government-controlled Marib in the central north of the country, who tweets news in English on his personal account as well as a news-focused Twitter account Yemen Mirror, told CPJ via messaging app that an unidentified individual called him on his cell phone October 9 and threatened him over his social media activity generally, saying “we know how to reach you and stop you soon.”
Al-Sakani’s recent reporting on Twitter is on the Houthi advance on the region, according to CPJ’s review.
CPJ emailed Ansar Allah spokesman Mohammad Abdulsalam for comment but did not receive a response.