Several news and opinion websites suddenly blockedOnline Freedom of speech suffers setback in Yemen [Archives:2008/1122/Front Page]

January 21 2008

By: Yemen Times Staff
SANA'A, Jan. 20 ) On Saturday, several Yemeni websites were blocked by the country's government-controlled Internet service providers (ISPs), preventing thousands of residents in Yemen from browsing them.

Among the most notable bloced sites was, a popular news aggregate covering a vast number of Yemeni news websites.'s manager Walid Al-Saqaf expressed concern about the action and commented that responses by Yemeni telecommunication officials were 'not convincing'.

“When the website was blocked on Saturday evening, I initially thought it may have been a technical fault with the site, but when I realized that it only users in Yemen couldn't access the site while visitors abroad could view it normally, I understood that the website was definitely blocked,” Al-Saqaf said. “Our portal is a mere news aggregate which publishes material from more than a thousand sources and it is inevitable that some of the articles may be critical of the government.

However, blocking the whole search engine for that is absurd!” he added, mentioning that he was warned personally that there may be repercussions for allowing some critical content from blocked websites to appear on the search engine.

The incident comes amidst an unprecedented systematic filtering and blocking of websites dealing with news and opinions. Another website blocked on the same day was, whose managing editor Imad Al-Jarrash condemned the act by the Ministry of Telecommunication and demanded in an official statement that authorities reverse the blocks and stop “messing with journalistic freedom”.

Yet another website targeted was Hour's News (, whose administrators circulated a mass e-mail condemning the act and informing its readers about an alternative link.

Other news and opinion websites that have recently been blocked are,, and community forum. This is in addition to a host of other news sites blocked months ago, such as and

Some websites that were recently blocked seem to have been anticipating the government move and hence activated and publicized alternative domain names for their readers to continue following them.

Upon approaching the telecommunication authorities responsible for Internet access in Yemen, employees responsible for the blocking and restricting access to websites explained they were doing their job as normal. “I confirm that no website was blocked for any reason whatsoever,” an employee at the public ISP told Yemen Times on condition of anonymity.

International organizations and donor countries advocating press freedom had expressed concern about a deteriorating level of press freedom in recent years, citing beatings of journalists, newspapers closures and more recently, blocking of political websites.