Houthi fighters are seen in Sanaa, Yemen, on November 22, 2021. Houthis recently raided several radio stations in Sanaa. (AP/Hani Mohammed)

Yemen Houthi forces raid, shutter radio broadcasters

New York, February 2, 2022 – Yemen’s Houthi rebels must stop harassing and shuttering media outlets, and should allow all broadcasters to operate freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Wednesday.

On January 25, Houthi forces raided and shuttered at least five radio stations in Sanaa, the capital, according to the Media Freedom Observatory nongovernmental organization, a statement from the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate trade group, and syndicate co-chair Nabil Alosaidi, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

The Houthi forces shut down the broadcasters Voice of Yemen, Grand FM, Al-Oula, Tufula FM, and Al-Diwan, allegedly for failing to renew their licenses, according to those sources. Alosaidi also said that Houthis had shuttered the Delta broadcaster, but CPJ could not immediately verify whether that outlet had been targeted.

Alosaidi said that the channels all remained closed as of Monday, January 31.

“Houthi raids on radio stations in Sanaa demonstrate how the militant group will leave no stone unturned in their harassment of the Yemeni press,” said CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad. “The Houthis must allow all radio stations to resume their work immediately and without preconditions, and must stop targeting Yemeni journalists once and for all.”

Alosaidi said that the Houthis, formally known as the Ansar Allah group, had previously demanded the outlets pay taxes and additional fees, and broadcast pro-Houthi propaganda. Those outlets normally air programming on news, culture, and entertainment.

In its statement, the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate said that the Houthis started regulating media outlets in 2017, despite lacking any legal basis to do so.

Previously, Houthi gunmen stormed the TV broadcaster Yemen Today in December 2017 and held at least 40 employees hostage for several days, as CPJ documented at the time. The group has repeatedly threatened journalists with execution, regularly detains members of the press, and has forced journalists to leave areas under their control.

CPJ emailed Houthi spokesperson Mohammad Abdulsalam for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.