IFJ “Gravely Concerned” About Violence Against Yemeni Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said today it is “gravely concerned” about increasing violence against journalists in Yemen.

Violence has rocked the country in the last few weeks after a fuel price hike sparked riots against the government. Thirty-nine people actually died in the protests. The army and security forces in Yemen have arrested a number of journalists covering the events and attacked others, confiscating their cameras and film. Some journalists have been banned from covering the event.

In other cases, Yemeni correspondents for foreign media have been barred from sending news reports using Yemeni TV satellite stations despite agreements that allow them to do so.

“More than 10 such incidences were recorded within only two days,” said Hafez Al-Bukari, General Secretary of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS). “The Ministry of the Interior has not seriously dealt with continuous complaints and communiqués, which were issued by YJS”.

The army personnel and security forces that have attacked the journalists have said that they were just following orders.

Al-Bukari said the YJS would take steps immediately to ensure that these attacks stop. The situation for Yemeni journalists has gotten riskier, Al-Bukari added, since the July 17 attack on the managing editor of Yemeni independent daily newspaper An-Nahar. The editor, Hajei Al-Jehafi, almost died after a booby-trapped letter exploded in his face.

“We are gravely concerned about these attacks on journalists in Yemen,” said Aidan White, General Secretary. “We stand in solidarity with the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate as it fights to maintain a free press and insure its members’ safety”.

In the last few months, the Yemeni media community has been highly concerned by the drafting of a new project of media legislation, issued by the ministry of information on April 2005.

The new law proposal came as a follow-up of President Saleh’s decree of 2004 to review the existing press and publications law n. 25 of 1990 to abolish the clause allowing the imprisonment of journalists. The issuing of the ministry of information’s draft came as a surprise, as the YJS was not consulted nor took part in the work of the drafting committee, despite assurance that it would.

“The April 2005 draft, while abolishing the imprisonment of journalists, foresees more restrictive clauses on freedom of expression, requirements to open a newspaper and to exercise the profession of journalist”, said White. “It also embeds professional standards and ethics principles”.

Following the protest and discontent of the Yemeni media community, a new commission to revise the 1990 law was created, chaired by the ministry of justice. Also in this case, the YJS was not consulted.

The IFJ is calling on the Yemeni government to stop the attacks against journalists and to engage in a dialogue with the YJS in order to create a conclusive environment for quality journalism in Yemen.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries