The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today called on Abdulmalek Al Houthi, the leader of Ansar Allah Movement, to stop his incitement against Yemeni media and to withdraw his forces from media organisations they are currently occupying. The latest attack took place last Tuesday when a group of his supporters, backed by armed militia, took over Al-Thawra, the biggest state-owned newspaper in Yemen.
"We call on Al Houthi to end the occupation of media and to stop threatening journalists who criticise his movement," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "This is a dangerous path and we hold him personally responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the journalists working for these media."
The occupation of Al-Thawra comes after armed militia from Ansar Allah Movement took over the headquarters of Yemen TV, the official broadcaster, last September. Since then, there have been several documented attacks by militants affiliated to this group against private media and threats to journalists.
Last Sunday, Al Abdulmalek Al Houthi attacked the media and journalists in a speech made to tribal leaders, saying that "Many media organisations and journalists are controlled and manipulated to work against the Yemeni people and their interests... The journalists' coverage is biased against the Popular Committees (his militia), and instead of focusing on corruption and building Yemen they focus on trivial issues."
According to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) branch in Al-Thawra newspaper, a group of armed men entered their offices on the afternoon of Tuesday 16 December and demanded to meet the newsroom editors to discuss the editorial line of the newspaper, but the journalists refused to talk to them.
"We condemn the acts of these militants and support the journalists who declined to follow the militias' orders, which amounted to dictate the content of the newspaper," added Boumelha.
Negotiations involving Nadia al Saqqaf, Yemeni Information minister, and Marwan Dammaj, deputy editor of the newspaper and General Secretary of the YJS, failed to persuade the group to leave the building. The intruders insisted on supervising the newspaper's editorial line. The minister and deputy editor then asked the staff to close their offices and leave the building.
The Al Houthi group then responded by bringing in other journalists and started publishing the newspaper under their control, which included an article entitle: "Al-Thawra employees deny that their organisation has been invaded; misunderstandings lead to a rumor about the invasion."
The IFJ supports its member union, the YJS, in its calls on all its members to continue refusing working under these unsafe conditions, which lacks any legal or legitimate basis. It also holds the Al Houthi group responsible for the safety of all the workers and any damage caused to the newspaper.
The YJS is also urging all Yemeni media to show solidarity with their colleagues and support all efforts intended to restore the legal and professional statute of the newspaper.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries