Intimidation, beatings, kidnapping and arrests have become commonplace for journalists covering the protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year long rule in Yemen.
With its blotchy, at best, human rights record, threats against outspoken journalists are nothing new in Yemen, but the number of attacks on journalists has risen dramatically since the uprising began in January, rights groups say.
“Around 52 journalists have been attacked this year,” Hakim al-Masmari told GlobalPost. “My staff have been warned and threatened by the central security forces for covering any story that supports the Yemeni revolution or the opposition.”
“The government is attacking journalists more often since Yemen’s revolution started. They do not want such information to leave the country,” he said. “My staff is commonly threatened by government forces when covering security matters or when they are known to have entered opposition protest areas.”
The rights organization Reporters without Borders is urging the Yemeni authorities to investigate attacks on journalists and the media, demanding appropriate sanctions “so that the media’s work is not obstructed by members of the security forces or by groups that use violence.”
Reporters without Borders lists several occasions where journalists have been arrested and held without charges, had their websites hacked into or been attacked physically, including an assassination attempt against Deputy Information Minister, Abdu Al-Ganadi, when a bomb exploded outside his home.
The rights group Avaaz reported how BBC Arabic’s Sanaa correspondent was beaten by pro-government armed gunmen in retaliation for what they called "negative reporting against the Yemeni regime". It was the third time this year that Abdullah Gorab was targeted. The incident, according to Avaaz is one of a number of attacks on journalists in Yemen over the last month.
This week, the rights group reported government troops burned tens of thousands of newspapers from 11 opposition media outlets. This occurred when the papers passed through checkpoints on their delivery routes to various Yemeni provinces.
“Since Yemeni newspapers count very much on newspaper sales to stay alive, we were forced to stop publication after the government burned thousands of our newspapers,” said Sami Qaleb, editor of al-Neda.
“Four of my journalists have been attacked over the last month", Ali Jaradi, editor of the independent al-Ahale newspaper told Avaaz, while
Mohammed al-Salahi, editor of Marebpress.net, Yemen’s most read news website, said that the government had tried to bribe the them to change their political stance.
“Every time the government attacks journalists, they become more insistent on reporting,” said Masmari of Yemen Post. “The media is very courageous in Yemen and journalists will continue seeking the truth.”