The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today warned that recent charges brought against a Yemeni newspaper and a raid on the newspaper’s office signaled a disturbing attack on independent media in the country.
The IFJ condemned the Yemeni government for accusing Al Shaari’ (The Street) of damaging national security and bringing charges against the newspaper in a court normally used to try terrorists. Convictions on these charges could lead to death sentences for the accused journalists.
“It is shocking that the Yemeni authorities are using the criminal court and charges that could bring the death sentence against journalists who have done no more than their normal work,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “This case has a chilling effect. Media are now fearful that reporting on the government or the military could land them in jail or even lead to the death penalty.”
On July 7th, the Yemeni Ministry of Defence filed a complaint against Al Shaari’ after the newspaper published a series of articles about the war between Yahya and Abulmalik Al-Houthi and the Yemeni army in Sa’da. The government has brought the case to a special court used to try suspected terrorists. The punishments on conviction could lead to jail terms or execution for the newspaper’s staff.
On July 30, ten armed men, who arrived in cars with military markings, raided the office looking for Nayef Hassan, editor in chief. He was not in the office at the time but the armed men threatened to kill him in front of other members of the newspaper staff.
The IFJ, representing over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries, is backing a protest from the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate (YJS). They believe investigating journalists under the country’s penal code sets a very serious precedent that will harm not only the legal standing of colleagues working for Al Shaari’ but will roll back the legal and constitutional foundations of journalism law that were laid down after the unification of the state and destroy all protection for press freedom and freedom of expression.
“We call on the government to respect the rule of law and protect the journalists working for Al Shaari',” said Marwan Damaaj, YJS General Secretary. “To show true commitment to press freedom and journalist safety authorities should arrest the men who attacked the newspaper office and bring charges against them.”
The IFJ and YJS believe that any complaints against the press should be investigated according to the country’s Media and Publication Law and any journalist charged should be allowed legal defence.
“We stand with our colleagues in Yemen and call on the government to respect press freedom and to protect journalists, not persecute them,” White said.
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide