New York, August 16, 2022 – Yemeni forces affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council should immediately release freelance journalist Ahmed Maher, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On August 6, security forces detained Maher and his older brother from Maher’s home in the Dar Saad neighborhood of Yemen’s southern port city of Aden without initially stating any reasons for the detention or where they were taking them, according to Nabil Alosaidi, co-chair of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app and a source close to Maher who requested anonymity for security reasons.
The source said that the security forces were affiliated with the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC), which controls Aden and seeks an independent state in southern Yemen. A news report in independent local newspaper Al Masdar quoted an anonymous security source also blaming STC for the arrest.
CPJ contacted STC spokesperson Mansour Saleh for comment via messaging app; he responded after publication saying he didn’t receive the initial request.
The source close to Maher told CPJ that he is being held in the jail at the Dar Saad police station. The source added that Maher has not yet been charged and is still under investigation, and that both he and his brother remain detained.
“Yemeni journalists have persevered through enough challenges, without having to worried about being taken from their homes and thrown in jail with no charges,” said CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad. “Security forces in Aden should free Ahmed Maher immediately, and the Southern Transitional Council and its affiliates should ensure that journalists can do their work freely.”
Maher was previously the editor of the local news website Marsad Aden, which is currently offline, and has written for other local news publications. CPJ was unable to determine what, if any, of Maher’s recent journalism may have made him a target for arrest.
According to a report in U.S. online publishing platform Medium by exiled Yemeni journalist and former CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Afrah Nasser, Maher previously fled his home in 2019 after he learned that STC forces had a warrant for his arrest.
A report by independent local newspaper Al-Ayyam, which often reports favorably on the STC, quoted a statement by unspecified local security forces accusing Maher of belonging to local forces under the command of Yemeni military official Brigadier General Amjad Khaled, who was sent to Aden to implement a 2019 truce agreement between the Yemeni government and the STC. The source close to Maher denied the accusations, saying that he had last served in the Yemeni army two years ago.
The source added that Maher’s Facebook page and his posts on other social media platforms were deleted after his arrest, adding that an unknown person had opened WhatsApp on his phone since his arrest.
Journalists in Aden have been targeted by arrests and threats over the past few years, and the city has seen several unsolved killings of journalists, as CPJ has documented.
[Editor’s note: The fourth paragraph has been updated with a response from STC spokesperson Mansour Saleh.]