The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Yemeni affiliate, the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS), have today strongly condemned the murder of journalist Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani and called for an independent investigation into his assassination.
The YJS said that al-Khaiwani was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on 18 March in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
"This is an outrageous and coward act that cannot remain unpunished,” said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. “We stood with him when he was given a 6-year jail sentence during Ali Salah's presidency. I personally delivered him the Amnesty award in March 2009 at his union’s congress and pleaded with the president for the sentence to be cancelled and for intimidation and harassment to cease. Abdul Karim was a brilliant journalist and fought hard for the underdog. His struggle for independent journalists put him at the forefront of the endeavours by Yemeni journalists to ensure that they work without threat to their lives or undue political interference. My heart goes out to his family. "
The fifty-year-old journalist worked as a former editor-in-chief of newspaper Al-Ommah and online newspaper Al-Shoura. In 2004, he was sentenced to 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. In August 2007 he was abducted by gunmen then reportedly beaten and threatened with death if he continued to publish articles criticising the government. In June 2008, al-Khaiwani was sentenced to six years prison and released after one year.
In 2008, he received Amnesty International’s special award for Human Rights Journalism under Threat.
The assassination occurred while the IFJ, the YJS and their regional and international partners were preparing to organise an international meeting to highlight the extremely dangerous situation facing journalists and the absence of protection for freedom of expression in Yemen.
“The journalists’ community lost a brave pen, a free voice and a colleague committed to defending media freedoms,” said the YJS. “ We ask official authorities to launch a swift investigation into the crime, to identify the culprits, arrest them and bring them to justice.”
Al-Khaiwani is the second journalist killed in Yemen since the beginning of 2015, after the killing of Al-Masirah TV channel's correspondent Khalid Mohammed al Washali last 4 January.
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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries