The IFJ President, Jim
Boumelha, joined journalists in Yemen
today in celebrating the presentation to their colleague Abdul Karim Al
Khaiwani of Amnesty International's Special Award for Human Rights Journalism
In delivering the award
during the 4th congress of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate in
Sana'a, IFJ President Jim Boumelha praised the bravery and resilience that Al
Khaiwani has shown during his long ordeal. "Abdul Karim is a very special
journalist." He said. "He is one of those rare breeds of journalists, some of
the bravest and the most determined - those who are prepared to sacrifice their
personal and professional lives for the public good and to put their future and
even the future of their families and children at risk in order to ensure that
our profession remains one of the strongest backbones of our democracies."
Al Khaiwani, former editor of
Al Shora newspaper, endured years of harassment during which he has been
arbitrarily detained, beaten, intimated and received death threats for articles
he has published.
According to press reports, he
received in 2004 a one-year term in prison for "insulting the president". After his
release in 2005 following a presidential pardon, he was harassed for several
years before being arrested again in June 2007 and detained for a month then
released on bail. In August 2007 he was abducted by gunmen then reportedly
beaten and threatened with death if he continued to publish articles criticising
In June 2008, Al Khaiwani was
sentenced to six years in prison for allegedly conspiring with al-Hawthi, a
rebel leader in the Saada region. Evidence consisted of photographs of rebel
forces and notes of an interview with a rebel leader , said his lawyers.
Following an international
outcry, President Ali Abdullah Saleh pardoned him in September but a Special
Criminal Court on Terrorism reimposed the sentence in January.
The Award was made in London on June 16th but Al Khawaini could not receive it in person as he was in prison. In
receiving it on his behalf Boumelha said
"Abdul Karim is convinced that standing up to bullies
and having to face up torture and imprisonment can make the difference. The IFJ
and the international community of journalists are grateful that Amnesty is
recognising the contribution made by this exceptional journalist."
Several attempts were made to
deliver the award to Al Khaiwani since his release from prison, including one
by the IFJ President which was thwarted after the Yemeni authorities indicated
they would not allow him in the country.
At yesterday's opening
session of the YJS congress, President Saleh, responding to a call made by the
IFJ President, reconfirmed his pardon and announced that the charges would be
dropped and the case closed.
In receiving the award in front
of a rapturous audience of several hundred journalists, Al Khaiwani said "I want to
emphasize here that this award is a recognition which I am proud of, it is also
recognition for Yemeni journalism and Yemeni journalists. I thank Amnesty
International for granting me this award which will support press freedom in Yemen. It also
sends a message to Yemeni journalists that they are not alone in the face of
authoritarianism, corruption and violation of human rights.'
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