Yemen: YJS report depicts grim situation of press freedom in 2017

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today denounced the 300 violations against journalists, media workers, media houses and websites reported in Yemen during 2017 by its affiliate, the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate (YJS). In its annual report, the YJS said that the Houthis rebel group committed 68% of the total violations, while 18% are attributed to the governmental and its agencies. There were other unknown non-state actors who are responsible for 9% of media restrictions while the Arab Coalition is accountable for 3% . Other groups such as the Southern Movement and Ansar Al-Sharia were involved in abuse by 1%. Last year, journalists faced many forms of abuse such as threats and incitement, seizure of media equipment, suspensions from work, unpaid salaries, expulsions and denial of access for covering current events. The YJS´s report also showed 103 cases of kidnappings and arrests. Moreover, the union’s report added that journalists in detention are often tortured by their abductors or state authorities. 14 journalists were kidnapped and are currently held in detention, 13 out of them in Houthi’s custody for more than two years. Attacks by heavy and medium weapons and harassment led to creation of fearful atmosphere among journalists in Yemen last year. Furthermore, the report includes five cases of suspension of media outlets, 37 cases of blockage of websites and social media and a total number of 39 journalists taken to the court. This curtailing of media freedoms have led to self-censorship and constitutes a serious challenge to press freedom, stressed the YJS. In addition, the IFJ affiliate in Yemen recorded 29 attempts to murder journalists and photojournalists and regretted that some of the survivors have had life changing disabilities due to these attacks. IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We call on the United Nations General Secretary and his envoy to Yemen to take these outrageous violations seriously and urge all parties involved in the war in Yemen to enforce United Nations Security Council’s resolutions which protect journalists in Yemen.” On 22 December, the IFJ sent a letter to Prime Minister of Yemen, Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, demanding accountability for those who committed crimes against journalists and appropriate actions to guarantee journalists’ professional and social rights. Yemen was one of the seven countries the IFJ chose for its 2017 End Impunity campaign due to the war between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition which resulted in increased violations of journalists’ rights. Three photojournalists lost their lives while covering the conflict in 2017, according to IFJ statistics.

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