Violent assults against freedom of press continueMilitary Intelligence frees arrested journalist [Archives:2005/874/Front Page]

September 5 2005
Sami Ghalib
Sami Ghalib
Jamal Amer
Jamal Amer
Hafed Al-Bukari
Hafed Al-Bukari
Hassan Al-Zaidi
SANA'A- Sept. 3- The Military Intelligence Authority, part of the Ministry of Defense, freed last Thursday Khaled al-Hammadi, correspondent of the London-based al-Nida newspaper and photographer of Associated Press (AP). The journalist was kidnapped by military intelligence officers during his stay at Arsh Balqis Hotel in the city of Marib, 160km east of Sana'a, where he was accompanying a number of Italian tourists.

Al-Hammadi was taken to Sana'a and put in an isolated cell until last Thursday's morning. “During my detention, I was prevented from making contact with my family. I was deprived of food and water for 24 hours,” Khaled said.

The kidnapping took place through a an anonymous phone call to his mobile that ordered Al-Hammadi to answer to an Air Forces Commander in Sana'a on Wednesday afternoon. When Al-Hammadi replied that he was in Marib the Intelligence Forces in Marib in coordination with that of Sana'a was sent to where he was residing at the hotel, and he was bundled into a military vehicle and taken to Air Force prison in Sana'a.

The journalist was detained on charges of publishing reports in al-Quds al-Arabi Paper describing the status of the Yemeni Air Forces as inefficient and technically feeble. After publishing this report and being circulated nationally and internationally, an official source at the Ministry of Defense warned last Thursday all the local media means and correspondents of foreign papers and agencies of publishing any stories about the military and security forces.

The official source considered news relating to the national security and military secrets as red lines that should not be crossed, adding that the press should not publish any information or stories on these institutions unless the concerned sides are permitted to do so, and the papers who violate should face up legal consequences of what they commit.

Procedures taken against Khaled al-Hammadi are part of a series of harassments and hassling of journalists witnessed in the country over the last few months. Half a month ago, unidentified persons broke into the AP's and al-Nida weekly's offices and robbed all the equipment there. A reliable source told the Yemen Times the case has been referred to the Attorney General last Wednesday for investigation after the case was attributed the doorkeeper of the building in which the AP office exist. The case of al-Nida weekly was attributed to the calligraphic designer, while no further investigation were taken.

During his latest meeting with Chief of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate and Jamal Amer, al-Wasat chief Editor, mysteriously kidnapped and subjected to beating, Minister of Interior Rashad al-Alimi pledged to complete investigation of Amer's case, confirming the plate number of the car which took Amer belongs to a deceased republican guard officer called al-Matari. Al-Matari was granted this number in 2001, and after his death the car was sold with the plate number to another person. Later on the plate number was submitted to the Ministry of Defense.

The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS) has shown concern over the harassment of journalists and hassling of journalists in Yemen. A member of the YJS's council described what journalists and journalism are subjected to as madness. He pointed out up until today the Ministry of Interior has never shown any response to reports of the YJS demanding the investigation into harassments of al-Nihar weekly staff members and the assassination attempt on its managing editor Haj'e al-Jihafi who was handed a booby-trapped envelope that badly injured his face last month.

The website of al-Wahdawi Net Paper, owned by the Opposition Unionist Nasserite Party was exposed to electronic destruction. The state-run al-Thawrah daily launched a media attack over the last few weeks upon some independent newspapers and their reporters who allegedly publish news against the authorities. It accused the YJS of being controlled by the opposition party leaders and newspapers.

Secretary General of the YJS Hafiz al-Bukari described the media attack launched by al-Thawrah as “irresponsible conduct” harming journalists and correspondents. He claimed interrogating al-Thawrah Managing Editor, a member of the syndicate, for disrespecting his colleagues. Hafiz emphasized that al-Thawrah daily never published any statements by the YJS and the reactions of journalists to the flagrant violations of the Yemeni press law and ethics code.

In the same context, Khaled Salman, Editor-in-Chief of al-Thawri, mouthpiece of the Yemeni Socialist Party appeared in court along with two of his reporters Nabil Subai and Fikri Qasim, at the Capital' South Court. The pair was accused of humiliating President of the Republic in a case launched against the paper and its reporters by the Press and Publications Prosecution. Additionally, another suit was filed against the paper by the leadership of Marine Forces and Coastal Defense, part of the Ministry of Defense.

The court is expected to continue looking into these cases next Wednesday. In the context of the Arab and international reactions to the harassments of Yemeni journalists, the Paris-based Correspondents Without Borders Organization confirmed in its recent statements “despite declarations of President Saleh on more than one occasion to support the press freedom, the independent media in Yemen are still subjected to continued hassling.”

On its part, Amnesty International urged for immediate investigation into the harassments of journalists and media establishments.

It has become normal to see opposition and independent newspapers always attacked by the authorities from time to time causing political controversy in the country, particularly as the presidential and parliamentary elections draw nearer. It is worth mentioning that the recent development come as many of the independent newspapers elevated the level of their writings reaching by that high level authorities and persons not used to being subjected to questioning and criticism by the media.

Journalists in Yemen lead a life dominated by fear and concern due to severe procedures taken against some of their colleagues. The threat, harassment, kidnapping and attack of media personnel and the robbery of journalistic offices emerged after the establishment of Yemen's Re-unification in 1990.

Numerous journalists believe that such procedures and violations are dangerous indicators of the future of journalism and expression of opinion ensured by the Yemeni constitution and the international accords and conventions. Especially that there are many opposition and independent newspapers in Yemen in addition to the new trend towards electronic press in Yemen, which are targeted by the editorials of the official newspapers recently.