In front of the presidential palace in Sana’a:Journalists protest harassment [Archives:2005/809/Front Page]

January 20 2005

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Tens of Yemeni journalists staged Monday a sit-in in front of the Presidential place to protest the continued detention of Abdulkareem al-Khaiwani, editor of al-Shoura Opposition Weekly.

Al-Khaiwani was jailed September 5th, 2004 after the preliminary court verdict sentencing him to one year in jail and closure of his newspaper for another 6 months. He was charged with incitement, insulting the president, publishing false news, and causing tribal and sectarian discrimination as well as supporting cleric Hussien al-Hawthi's rebellion against the authorities.

The journalists and pro-democracy activists who gathered in front of the presidential palace, urged in a letter to President Ali Abdullah Saleh to “put an end to the plight of our colleague al-Khaiwani through means endorsed by the Constitution.”

“We hope that a breakthrough in the relationship between the executive authorities and the press which will hopefully become a Fourth Estate just like in any mature democracy. We are very ambitious that you would graciously direct the government and executive authorities to stop harassing journalists, and to deal with reports published in newspapers in a rather liberal and tolerant manner, taking into account the professional role of the press,” the letter said.

The letter highlighted the several attacks and lawsuits made against the press in a series of successive legal cases against journalists that have all followed the sentence and consequent imprisonment of Al-Khaiwani, whose advocates were not able to appeal the verdict.

The appeal court was not able to meet and accept the appeal. It was expected that the appeal should have been discussed last Sunday after several postponements. However, the appeal court judge Hamoud al-Hirdi announced the delay till February 8th. He said the court jury members were not able to meet.

President Saleh met three of the protesting journalists and gave orders to the minister of justice to “immediately take a action with regards to al-Khaiwani's case,” something which the minister promised to carry out.

Several local and international NGOs like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have shown grave concerns over the backsliding situation of the press in Yemen.