Below is a final statement summarising the outcome of the meeting and actions agreed by the different international stakeholders to take in Yemen. The meeting was hosted and co-organised by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) and International Media Support (IMS) this morning at the Press Club Brussels Europe.
International Partnership for Yemen
Supporting Journalism and Freedom of Expression on the Front Lines
Monday 26th October - Press Club Brussels Europe
Journalists unions, media development groups, the UN offices and intergovernmental groups met to discuss the situation facing journalists in Yemen.
They firstly deplored the horrendous suffering of the Yemeni population and the humanitarian crisis that has been caused by the war where it is estimated by UNICEF that up to1.4 million have been forced to flee their homes and a further 10 million children (80% of country’s under 18 population) are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.
They further condemned how the war has also decimated the media community since the start of the year, including
- 10 journalists and media workers have been killed either caught up in the military cross fire or a result of targeted assassinations.
- At least 16 journalists are believed to be currently detained by Houthi forces in appalling conditions with reports of severe abuse and torture. We are particularly concerned about the whereabouts of Wahid Al Soufi, who was kidnapped in March and has since disappeared without trace.
- The vast majority of journalists forced from their jobs and their homes and sought refuge in the countryside or, according to estimates, up to 500 journalists forced to flee the country.
- The polarised media landscape caused by the systematic take-over of media by armed groups forcing all but hard-line supporters to leave and media to act as propaganda mouthpieces. The last remaining independent media, Yemen Voice, was taken over earlier this month with the owner and journalists fled.
- The indiscriminate bombings by all parties to the conflict without regard to the safety of journalists or the location of media houses.
- The incitement of armed groups against journalists. We in particular condemn the statement by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi who, in a speech broadcast in September labelled journalists as ‘traitors’ who are “more dangerous to the country than the mercenary fighters”, adding that “Something must be done to confront them.”
Participants at the meeting agreed the following:
Media freedom and independent journalism is paramount for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and long-term rehabilitation of communities.
All parties are held responsible under international law for the welfare of journalists and for ensuring they are able to work freely, safely and without interference. The treatment of journalists in conflicts are governed by UN Security council resolutions 1738 and 2222 which hold states responsible for the safe passage and work of journalists.
- That all deaths of journalists must be fully investigated and the killers brought to justice.
- The immediate release of all journalists held
- An end to the abuse and torturing of journalists
- The withdrawal of all armed groups from all media organisations and guarantees enabling journalists and media to operate freely
- A public commitment by all parties to the safe conduct of journalists in the country and a public statement by Houthi leader retracting the incitement against journalists
- Provision of support to refugee journalists forced to flee the country - Urge media to adopt neutrality and peace building
- Urge all parties to allow the importing of media equipment.
Pledged: to prioritising actions to support the above demands for Yemeni journalists and further commit to:
- The launch of a Yemen Journalists Solidarity Fund to meet the immediate needs of Yemeni journalists including their health and safety
- Support the preparation of a report on allegations of crimes against journalists to be submitted to the International Criminal Court
- the continued monitoring of and advocacy against abuses of journalists
- the development of further programmes to improve their safety, welfare and ability to operate
- Supporting independent media programming for Yemen society during the conflict that aims to seek an end to conflict.
- And a commitment to a long-term post-conflict programme to build an independent, democratic, public service media in Yemen
All participating organisations committed to co-ordinate their actions in support of Yemen media sector.
See the IFJ's campaign 'End Oppression and Incitement against Yemeni Journalists' here.