Crackdown against journalists reporting on massive human rights violations

Press release

Paris-Geneva, May 14, 2010 – The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), expresses its deepest concern about the increase of the judicial harassment faced by journalists denouncing human rights violations in Yemen.

Over the past weeks, Yemen has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of journalists being prosecuted for articles denouncing the repression and the human rights violations committed in the context of two internal political crises in the country: the Sa’ada war in the north which broke out in 2004 that pits the national army against the al-Huthi’s group calling itself «The believing youth», and the mass protests against discrimination in the south of the country, which started in 2007.

On May 3, 2010, two hearings were held before the Special Court on Media Offences against Messrs. Naef Hassan, Nabeel Subay, and Mahmood Taha, three journalists working for the national newspaper Al-Shari who are accused by the Ministry of Defence of “disclosing military secrets” and “undermining the army’s morale”, punishable by the death penalty. Mr. Naef Hassan is also charged, along with two other Al-Shari journalists, Messrs. Adeeb Alsayyed and Mohamed Ali Mohasen, of “undermining national unity”. The verdict was postponed to May 23, 2010.

Likewise, on May 2, 2010, Messrs. Sami Ghaleb, Abdel Aziz al-Majidi, Mayfa’ Abdel Rahman, Fouad Mas’ad and Shafee Alabd, respectively editor and journalists working for the newspaper Al-Nedaa, were prosecuted before the Court of Journalism and Publications under the charge of “undermining national unity”. The verdict was postponed to May 15, 2010.

All of the above-mentioned journalists, prosecuted for denouncing the repression and the human rights violations committed in the context of the two internal political crises mentioned above, remain free pending the issue of the trials.

Moreover, on May 2, 2010, Mr. Hussain Alleswas, an independent journalist was sentenced to one year of imprisonment by the Court of Journalism and Publications for “undermining national unity” following the publication of several articles denouncing acts of corruption within Al-Bayda province Electricity Company. He appealed the decision but he remains detained in the Sanaa Central Prison since the sentence was pronounced.

The Observatory also recalls the judicial harassment faced by the journalist Mr. Muhammad al-Maqaleh, member of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) and editor-in-chief of the internet website Al-Ichtiraki who was kidnapped on September 17, 2009. He was released on March 25, 2010 but he is now being prosecuted before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) for having disclosed information against security forces and for having exchanged information with the rebellion group Al-Huthi about the Sa’ada war. He is also being prosecuted by the Special Court on Media Offences for “defaming the President”. No date for the hearings has been scheduled as of publishing.

The Observatory strongly condemns the increase of the judicial harassment faced by Yemeni journalists and Mr. Alleswas’ arbitrary detention, which seem to merely aim at silencing them.

Accordingly, the Observatory urges the Yemeni authorities to immediately and unconditionally release M. Alleswas since his arrest is arbitrary as it seems to only aim at sanctioning his human rights activities, and to put an end to all acts of harassment – including judicial harassment - against all human rights defenders, including journalists in conformity with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as international human rights instruments ratified by Yemen.

For further information, please contact:

·FIDH: Karine Appy / Fabien Maitre: + 33 1 43 55 25 18

·OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: + 41 22 809 49 39

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