Report on Freedom of Press Violations in Yemen during 2000 -PART 4 IN A SERIES [Archives:2001/25/Law & Diplomacy]

June 18 2001

Mohamed Sadiq
Head of Administrative Affairs, YJS
Threats and blackmail
The seventh and eighth cases reported struck a new dimension in the violations of the freedom of press against female journalists. Those two cases are among the rarest of press violations committed against women journalists. Those two journalists were Ms. Rahma Hujaira, correspondent of the UAE-based “Zahrat Al-Khaleej” weekly magazine and Sudanese journalist, Ms. Aida Abdulhameed, correspondent of the London-based weekly magazine “Sayyideti”. Both journalists had gone through many ordeals consequent upon their reporting the case of Sanaa University’s Ripper Mohamed Adam. They were harassed on the phone, threatened, and blackmailed by unknown individuals who requested them to stop reporting Adam’s case.
This is the very same reason why the correspondent of “Al-Quds Al-Arabi” and “Al-Ittihad” were threatened as reported earlier.
The cases of both journalists were reported on August 4, 2000. The YJS released a press statement in support of the two journalists requesting the authorities concerned to bring those irresponsible individuals who harassed the Aida and Rahma to justice. The syndicate warned in its statement against continuation of such acts, which would potentially discourage journalists, particularly female journalists from reporting truthfully.
Assault and Imprisonment in Private Jails
Journalist Mustafa Nasr Al-Sharaabi of Al-Sahwa weekly, mouthpiece of the Islah Party, was subject on the 7th of August 2000 to an assault and was imprisoned illegally by officials at the office of Reconstruction, Housing, and Modern Planning office of Sana’a City. This was because he wrote about the constitutional violations, corruption, and legal infringements in a number of governmental offices, including the above mentioned office. In his writings, he focused on the fact of multiple imprisonment ordered by authorities. In other words, he revealed the many different governmental officers that are empowered to imprison people without any court or legal orders.
On its part, the YJS released a statement denouncing this illegal act, and requested the punishment of those who assaulted Al-Sharaabi and imprisoned him illegally in private jails.
Assassination Attempt, Arrests and Attacks by Armed Groups
The tenth case relates to journalist Mohammed Sadiq Al-Udaini, the current Administrative Manager of the YJS, who was arrested on 28 August 2000. Al-Udaini had been previously attacked and was about to be kidnapped. Eventually he was illegally arrested on 9 July 1997 and stayed for two months in his hometown Al-Udain province in the governorate of Ibb until he was released on 9 September 1997. This was later followed by an assassination attempt on 11 December 1997 engineered by an armed group of to some very influential individuals including the sheik of the region and the head of the GPC’s branch in Al-Udain, his deputy, and the vice governor of the Ibb governorate. The grounds for the arrest and the assassination attempt was a result of his articles that were usually critical of the wrong doings of the government and his attempt to unmask the human rights violations committed against the people of Al-Udain province by the armed groups controlled by influential people who assaulted helpless people and put them in private jails for various reasons. His reports also included sensitive information about acts of corruption and abuse of public funds. Following his release, the armed groups attacked once again, resulting in the death of one citizen while four others including Al-Udaini were severely injured. Interestingly, they were sent to the Al-Thawra hospital in the governorate and then straight to the central prison of Ibb, despite the fact that some of those wounded people were still recovering. Due to some interference of influential individuals in the legal procedures of Al-Udaini’s trial, he stayed in prison for two consecutive years until he was released in November 11, 1999 after the build up of pressure by fellow journalists, intellectuals, writers, and international organizations dealing with human rights. The main contributor to the release of Al-Udaini was the Paris-based Journalists organization Sans Frontiers , which had put his name in the international list of political prisoners.
As if that was not enough, in August 2000, Al-Udaini’s family and home were attacked with various weapons including machine guns and automatic rifles by armed security forces. The attack resulted in severe injury to Al-Udaini’s uncle. An attempt was made to kidnap his father, and an overall atmosphere of panic and despair was crated.
Following these happening, the YJS sent an urgent letter to the Minister of Interior requesting a speedy action to punish those who ordered the assault and the ones who carried it out.
Another Assassination Attempt
The 11th case involves the journalist Yahya Al-Sadmi, an editor of the weekly 26 September newspaper, mouthpiece of the military forces/ Ministry of Defense, who is also the correspondent to the Kuwaiti newspaper “Al-Siyasiyya”. Al-Sadmi was almost assassinated by a group of 6-armed men in one of the streets of Sana’a City. The attackers came in a TOYOTA (private/11608) and shot at Al-Sadmi with their rifles. Fortunately, the passers-by interfered and his life was saved but the journalist was beaten up with the rifles and by hand, resulting in his severe injury.
The YJS released yet another statement condemning this horrible act against Al-Sadmi, who is also one of its registered members. As usual, the YSJ requested the concerned authorities to take action by bringing the ones responsible for the dastardly deed.
Punishing the Family of a Journalist
Among the most horrifying acts against the free press was that of Tahir Mohammed Abdullah Al-Junaid, a journalist in the Mithaq newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling party, the GPC. In the report, he “complained against what his family in the province of Al-Udain had gone through in terms of acts of harassment and violence culminating in the killing of his uncle in late 1998. To make matters worse the case was eventually dismissed letting the murderers free and unpunished. That was followed by an attempt to assassinate his brother, who worked in the judicial authority as a judge on the evening of Tuesday, 12 September 2000. The attempt resulted in his sustaining severe injury and hospitalization in critical conditions. On receiving the news, the Chairman of the YJS called the governor of Ibb, who asserted that he would personally follow up the case with the attorney and the security organs of the governorate.”Journalist Tahir again sent a complaint letter to the YJS against the pressure exerted by influential figures in Ibb governorate that are investigating his case to rush up the case. Tahir’s family continued to be harassed and threatened to force him to withdraw the case from the court. The YJS sent another letter to the governor of Ibb demanding the protection of the journalist’s family and guarantee a just and honest trial to punish the oppressors.
Chase and Arrest in Dhali’
On October 10, 2000 Ahmed Harmal, correspondent of Al-Shura opposition newspaper and mouthpiece of the Popular Forces Union Party was chased in Dhali governorate while Mohamed Saleh Saeed, an editor in the official news agency (SABA) was arrested and illegally imprisoned for days in the same governorate.
The YJS registered the case brought about by Harmal who said that his colleague Mohamed Saleh Saeed was arrested for participating in a peaceful protest at Dhali’ while Harmal was chased because of his coverage of the events.
The YJS issued a statement condemning the action taken against the two journalists and demanded the “immediate release of Mohamed Saleh and the suspension of the chase of Harmal.”
Despite that, security forces continued to chase Harmal until he was finally arrested. Thereafter the YJS “received and registered a statement by his family that he was illegally arrested and put in prison in the governorate of Dhali’ days ago.”The syndicate indicated in a statement released that it “considered that not allowing his lawyer to meet the defendant, preventing him from attending the interrogation procedures, and not being informed about the charge for his arrest, all of which were done illegally by the attorney and which contradict the provisions of the constitution. Harmal was not released until late December 2000 and had to provide a surety according to the insistence of the official authorities.
A Swedish Kidnapped, a Journalist’s House Surrounded
The final case reported was that of journalist Hassan Al-Zaidi of the Weekly English newspaper, Yemen Times. Al-Zaidi’s house was surrounded by armed security forces because he belonged to a tribe that kidnapped a Swedish expert who worked in the field of electrical energy in Mareb.
The YJS registered this case following a press release by Yemen Times on November 21 2000 regarding the unfortunate event and after confiscation his personal car, which has yet to be returned to him.
The YJS protested strongly and contacted the Minister of Interior demanding an immediate interference in the matter, end his illegal confinement and return to him his vehicle. The crisis ended only after more than 2 weeks of intensive efforts by the YJS.
Next Week: Significant Deterioration in the Status of Press Freedom in Yemen