International Partnership Denounces Systematic Attacks on Press Freedom in Yemen

Against

a backdrop of historic political change for the region that has brought the

country to the brink of its own revolution, The International Partnership for

Yemen today releases findings from its joint mission that expose the critical

situation facing the media.

The

Partnership, a coalition of press freedom and human rights organisations

including ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression, The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Media Support (IMS), and The

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), visited Yemen

in a week-long advocacy mission in November 2010.

The

report, published today and entitled "Freedom of Expression in Yemen: A

Critical State of Affairs", reveals that Yemeni media professionals live and

work in an extremely hostile environment.

"Widespread

violence is directed against journalists, while reports of abductions,

kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture are commonplace," said

Rodrigo Bonilla, Press Freedom Missions Coordinator at WAN-IFRA, the

Partnership's lead organisation. "The Yemeni government uses a powerful set of

draconian laws to stifle freedom of expression, while through tight control

over broadcast and print institutions, distribution outlets and advertising it

is seriously undermining the development of a strong independent media."

Journalists

feel inadequately protected by the country's legal system and there is a

culture of fear surrounding editorial coverage of a wide range of issues. As a

result, self-censorship is common practice.

"The

acts of intimidation and harassment of critical voices are further legitimised

by a parallel court system and with proceedings that fall short of the Yemeni

constitution," commented Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.

"The Government should immediately abolish the system of special courts for

media related offenses, stop unjustified restrictions on freedom of expression,

and create an enabling environment for media and civil society."

While

revisions to the laws surrounding media regulation are expected to come

following the start of a parliamentary consultation process, wider

liberalisation and development of the sector is crucial if the media is to

provide effective coverage of the issues and fulfill its role of holding power

to account. "I hope that we will finally see a positive response from the

government in relation to the new press laws and access to information

proposals so that they fully meet international standards," said Antti Kuusi,

IMS Country Coordinator for Yemen.

In

a call to the international community for greater support, Yemeni media

professionals appealed to the International Partnership to help focus attention

on the urgent internal issues that are tearing the country apart.

"Journalists,

editors and media professionals are insisting that urgent reforms are

introduced that will guarantee social and professional rights for all," said

Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Journalists work in conditions of poverty

and media exist in a twilight world of press freedom. It's time for wholesale change

that will set journalism free, create transparency and set the country on a

track that will bring democracy and prosperous development for all."

As

recent events have shown, the Yemeni people are growing increasingly frustrated

with President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year regime. As protests turn violent

with reports of government supporters attacking pro-reform demonstrators, the

International Partnership for Yemen urges the president to allow

greater media freedoms

to provide the credible and plural information that is at the very core of the

democratic society people are calling for.



The

report also calls for the immediate release of Saba news agency journalist Abdul Ilah Haider Shaea,

imprisoned for supposed links to Al-Qaeda. The international coalition is

concerned that Mr Shaea is being punished for his critical writing on the

government's terrorism policy.

The report can

be downloaded in full from http://tinyurl.com/68adzol (link

for download at bottom

of the page).

For more information, contact:

ARTICLE 19 Legal Advisor, Cynthia Cardenas: cynthiac@article19.org

IFJ Middle East and Arab World Coordinator,

Monir Zaarour: monir.zaarour@ifj.org

IMS Country Coordinator for Yemen, Antti

Kuusi: ak@i-m-s.dk

WAN-IFRA Press Freedom Missions Coordinator,

Rodrigo Bonilla: rbonilla@wan.asso.fr

For more about the coalition partners, go to:

www.article19.org

www.ifj.org

www.i-m-s.dk

www.wan-ifra.org