Yemen: 45 journalists killed in the last ten years
Forty five journalists were killed in Yemen between 2011 and September 2021, many of whom lost their lives since the outbreak of the fighting between the Houthis and the Yemeni government forces supported by the Saudi led-coalition. According to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS), none of the perpetrators has been brought to justice.
The bloody conflict, the political instability, the multiplicity of actors in the absence of state authority but also the growing hostility towards the press and journalists have contributed to enshrining the impunity of the perpetrators of these crimes.
Most of the warring factions in the ongoing war in Yemen, which started in 2015, bear responsibility for the attacks on journalists. The situation of impunity is fostered by the absence of an independent judiciary and inadequate security conditions.
In addition to the killings, Yemeni media workers suffer arbitrary detentions, injuries and threats on a daily basis. They often face media restrictions or closures and self-censorship out of fear of reprisals. They are regularly prevented from covering news and hundreds of journalists working for state media have not been paid since 2016. Yemeni media has become highly polarised along political and sectarian lines and media professionals are considered by most warring factions as the enemy.
The war in Yemen is often considered as a “forgotten war”, because of the little coverage by international media due to attempts to silence independent reporting, which has resulted in a news deficit.
While many journalists fled the country, some have stayed and continue to remind the world of the havok which the conflict continues to exact on the civilians. Sometimes, the price for informing the public about the current situation and the suffering of the people has been the loss of journalists' lives.
The most vulnerable group are local journalists who face the daily challenges of reporting a war.
2021: another difficult year for Yemeni journalists
The latest YJS reports on the state of media freedom in the country list 63 violations against journalists and media from January to the end of September 2021. The crimes range from targeted killings, imprisonment, attacks on media houses, shutdown of media and confiscation of newspapers to death threats, harassment and assaults.
Government forces and armed groups are all implicated in the violence against journalists. The YJS cites Yemen's internationally recognised government of President Hadi, the Houthis who lead the de facto government in Sana'a and the Southern Transitional Council which controls the interim Yemeni capital Aden, as those mainly responsible for the attacks against media workers this year.
To date, 10 journalists are still under Houthi custody. Four of them, Abdel-Khaleq Amran, Akram al-Walidi, Hareth Hamid and Tawfiq al-Mansouri, have been sentenced to death on charges of alleged "treason and spying for foreign states" in arbitrary trials and are held since 2015 in extremely dire conditions, subjected to torture and denied appropriate medical care. They are mostly denied family visits.
Two journalists have been arrested recently and later released, namely Youness Abdelsalam who has been held since August 2021 by the Houthis and investigative journalist Adel al-Hasani who was detained from September 2020 to March 2021 by the Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces. A third journalist, Muhammad Qaid al-Maqri, is also detained by Al-Qaeda.
Regarding attacks on media houses, the union noted the suspension of radio stations Adeniya FM and Bandar Aden in Aden by the STC.
“The Yemeni press is undergoing a dangerous situation, as the war has created an unsafe environment for journalists and the media. The warring parties in Yemen are hostile towards the media and journalists who do not follow the orientations of the conflicting sides. The press freedoms have been exposed since 2015 until the third quarter of the year to 1359 cases of violations of media freedoms. Moreover, many journalists lost their jobs, dozens were fired, and hundreds of journalists haven’t been paid,” said the YJS.
The YJS General Secretary, Mohammed Shubaita, added that: "Over 1,300 cases of violations have been recorded since 2015, either through website blocking, closure of news agencies and media outlets, abductions and imprisonment. There are currently 10 journalists abducted by the Houthi group, and four of them have been sentenced to death. The judicial process has been suspended in order to proceed with negotiations for the exchange of the kidnapped persons. This process is rejected by YJS which demands their immediate release and the punishment of all those responsible for this suffering. We hope that all organisations, unions and federations around the world will take a stand of solidarity and condemn these unjust violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Thirty-eight journalists have been killed in several regions of Yemen between 2015 and mid 2021"
The IFJ believes that impunity cannot be eradicated if there is no accountability for these crimes. The Federation praises the work of its affiliate YJS and considers that its monitoring and reporting over the situation of media workers’ in Yemen is essential in the seeking justice.