IFJ Backs Yemeni Journalists’ Call For Union Activist Held by Security Police To Be Freed

The International Federation of Journalists today called on the Yemeni authorities to release journalist Saeed Thabet, arrested less than two weeks after his election to the Yemen Journalists Syndicate (YJS) board. The IFJ says the action is part of a process of intimidation of Yemeni journalists’ leaders.

"We are appalled by the Yemeni security forces' disregard of free press and basic human rights and demand the immediate release of Saeed Thabet", said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is shocking to witness an escalation in threats and detention of journalists following the 3rd General Congress of the Yemen Journalists Syndicate, whose Board is being prevented from carrying out normal activity." The Yemeni Syndicat recently joined the IFJ.

Thabet is the correspondent of the London-based Kuds Press agency and was arrested by intelligence agents on 5 March while out with his 3-year-old son. The boy later returned home alone. His arrest reportedly followed the rumour of an assassination attempt of Ahmed Ali Abdullah, the elder son of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Quickly denied by governmental sources, the rumour had been published by Thabet's agency as by many other news agencies.

Journalists were later invited to attend the graduation ceremony of Special Forces headed by Colonel Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, during which he described the recent reports of an assault on his life as lies and rumours. But some journalists refused to attend until Thabet is set free.

YJS chairman Mahboob Ali, as well as Kuds Press and various human rights and press freedoms NGOs, called on Yemeni authorities to release Saeed Thabet immediately, describing him as a highly respected professional whose arrest harms Yemen and its legislations relating to human rights and freedoms. “This arrest has shocked the journalist community and the authorities should move quickly to free our colleague,” said White.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries