*UPDATE (14/12/2017): Yemen's Huthi rebels freed the journalists and staff of Yemen Today, Saba news agency reported on 13 December.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today raised its deepest concerns about the safety and lives of at least 30 journalists and media workers of the TV channel Yemen Today.
The staff are being held inside the Television building in the capital Sana'a, following the Houthis militias’ raid on the station of 3 December 2017. During the attack, at least three building guards were injured, according to the management of the TV.
A correspondent for the Russian channel Sputnik TV, together with a number of security guards and other media employees are also held at Yemen Today, reports added.
The rebels seized the TV channel after the broadcast of former Yemeni President Saleh last Saturday, in which he called on his followers and Yemeni people to revolt against the Houthis. Saleh was killed yesterday by Houthi militias while trying to escape the capital Sana’a.
The IFJ has called on the Houthis to respect journalists’ independence and to release all journalists and media staff currently being held at the Yemen Today TV.
“We are sadly witnessing a constant and unbearable harassment of journalists in Yemen, one of the most dangerous countries in the world. No journalist should be abused for doing their job and holding them as hostages is inacceptable,” said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger. “We thus call on all warring parties to respect press freedom in the country and stop using journalists as pawns in a wider geopolitical fight and urge the Houthis to release our colleagues as a matter of urgency.”
The IFJ is also calling on the Houthis to release 14 other journalists they are holding in their prisons, some of them have been detained for over two years.
In addition, according to the Yemeni Journalists´ Syndicate (YJS), an IFJ affiliate, the Houthis have blocked and closed several media associated with Saleh party and tens of journalists have gone into hiding hunted by Houthis.
The Houthis have blocked Almotamar Net, Methaq Net and Methaq Mobil news sites. They have closed down Al Methaq newspaper and put guards on its building. They have also brook into Yemen FM and closed the station.
The rebels have distributed lists of the journalists working for these media to their security checkpoints across Sana´a with arrest warrants. The journalists are hiding or fleeing the city, the YJS reported.
This is not the first time the Houthis do this. After they took over Sana´a in 2015, hundreds of journalists have been forced to flee the city fearing for their lives and freedom.
¨We demand the immediate halt of this campaign of repression and intimidation. All imprisoned journalists must be released immediately and media should not be dragged into the political fight,¨ said the YJS.
Yemen is among the seven countries targeted in the IFJ End Impunity campaign as local journalists face harassment and attacks on a daily basis. According to IFJ figures, at least 28 journalists have killed in Yemen since 2007, three of whom since the start of this year.
During the first nine months of this year, the YJS has registered 25 cases of attacks on journalists, 21 cases of attempted murder and 50 kidnappings and arrests. Most of the abductions and arrests were committed by the Houthis.