A one-day international meeting, hosted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and co-organised in cooperation with the Global Forum for Media Development and International Media Support on 26 October at the Press Club Brussels Europe, agreed on an action plan to address the horrific situation facing journalists in Yemen.
The meeting brought together media freedom and development organisations and observed by UNESCO, UNDP, UN Resident Coordinator’s Office and the EU Delegation to Yemen.
The gathering sought to raise awareness of the increasing media safety crisis and to collaborate on providing coordinated support to Yemeni journalists. Ten of them have been killed in 2015 and 16 remain held captive, mostly by Houthi rebels, according to the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate (YJS), an IFJ affiliate.
The YJS General Secretary, Marwan Dammaj, joined the meeting via videoconferencing from Amman, Jordan, and described the climate of violence, torture and threats journalists are working in.
“We have evidence of arrested journalists who have been subjected to torture. How can we work as our colleagues are being tortured? We are working in a situation in which we can be arrested at any time. We are living in a climate of fear.” The IFJ was frustrated that Dammaj was not able to enter Belgium for the meeting due to bureaucratic problems.
The plight of Yemeni journalists was echoed by Nadia Alsakkaf, Information Minister in the internationally recognised government in Yemen, who described independent journalists as the ‘protectors’ of Yemeni people who ensure the people have access to the facts and truth about the crisis.
The IFJ President, Jim Boumelha, gave strong backing to the affiliate in Yemen, one of the first to join the Federation from the region, and praised their track record in standing up for journalists’ rights for decades in Yemen.
“Marwan Dammaj and his colleagues are the real heroes of this meeting, having to confront the war and being themselves the target of harm at any time,” said Boumelha.
One of the immediate actions agreed within the action plan was the launch of a Yemen Journalists Solidarity Fund to meet the immediate health and safety needs of Yemeni journalists. The IFJ calls for contributions to this special solidarity appeal to provide financial aid and humanitarian assistance to Yemeni journalists and their families, who are desperately in need of help.
Leaders from the IFJ’s Executive Committee representing unions from UK, Germany, Iraq, Morocco, Palestine and Indonesia as well as representatives of IFJ affiliates from Norway and Belgium showed their support highlighting the importance for the global journalism community to stay together in these difficult moments.
The fight between the Houthi rebels and the international coalition led by Saudi Arabia has left a toll at over 5,000 dead and 26,000 people injured in Yemen. 86% of the killed are civilians and, according to the United Nations (UN), 2.3 million have fled their homes.
See the IFJ's campaign 'End Oppression and Incitement against Yemeni Journalists' here.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries