6 June 2002
Three journalists given five-month suspended sentences
(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has protested a Yemeni court's recent conviction of Abdul-Rahim Mohsen, Khaled Salman and Ibrahim Hasan, who were each sentenced to five-month suspended prison sentences. "This verdict is a perfect example of the inconsistency in Yemen between official statements about press freedom, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, and what happens in practice. Journalists are regularly arrested and convicted for 'defamation' because they dare to write about taboo subjects such as sex, relations with 'brother' countries, Islam and the law," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard noted in a letter to Interior Minister Rashad al-Alimi. "We ask that these sentences be overturned, and demand the immediate release of the journalist who is still in prison," he added. As RSF recalled, over the past year, two journalists have been arrested, three weekly publications have been closed down and two journalists have been barred from publishing their work.
On 4 June 2002, the Sanaa Court sentenced Salman, editor-in-chief of the daily "Al-Thawri" (the opposition Socialist Party's newspaper) and two of the newspaper's journalists, Mohsen (who is also a writer) and Hasan, to five-month suspended prison sentences. They had been charged with incitement to "religious sedition" and "harming national unity" following the publication of a series of articles in February. The charges were brought by the Ministry of Information. The journalists have appealed the ruling. Although Salman and Hasan have been released, Mohsen remains in custody. He was arrested on 23 May and was also detained briefly earlier in May. The Interior Ministry has refused to disclose details of where the journalist is being held or for what reason, but it appears that he is incarcerated in connection with articles he has written criticising government corruption, human rights' violations and the wave of arrests that followed the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Salman was a supporter of the south Yemeni separatists during the 1994 civil war, and as a result still has problems with the police today.
On 30 April, Interior Minister al-Alimi and Information Minister Hussein Daifallah al-Awadi warned journalists, Arab and foreign correspondents against propagating false information that could damage the image and interests of the country. Al-Alimi declared, "Only the Interior Ministry is authorised to make statements about the country's security." He also warned that legal action would be taken against those who failed to comply.