(RSF/IFEX) - On 18 July 2002, RSF accused the Yemeni government of trying to intimidate journalists working for foreign media by hauling them in for questioning. "The government is using this tactic and legal action to intimidate journalists," said the organisation's secretary-general, Robert Ménard. He asked Information Minister Abdul Rahman al-Akwa and Justice Minister Ismail Ahmad al-Wazir to put a stop to the intimidation campaign, which he said was aimed at further reducing press freedom in Yemen.
Three journalists - Faisal Mukarram, of the Saudi Arabian daily "Al-Hayat", Ahmed al-Haj, of the United States news agency Associated Press, and Khaled al-Mahdi, of the German news agency DPA - were questioned on 9 and 11 July by a court in Sana'a that deals with media offences. They were accused of publishing "military information without evidence and without consulting official sources, as required by the press law". Mukarram refused to answer Judge Fadil Mubarak al-Salmi's questions without the presence of a lawyer and a senior Yemeni journalist.
The journalists were summoned after they wrote reports about the Yemeni army's bombing of tribal areas in the northern part of the country, on 5 and 6 July, after a 4 July assassination attempt on the deputy head of the army, Brigadier Ali Mohammed Saleh, in the area.
Six other journalists were summoned by the Information Ministry on 7 July. They included Mohammed al-Qadhi, of the Saudi daily "Al-Riyadh", Mohammed al-Globari, of the United Arab Emirates daily "Al-Bayan", Said Thabet, of Al-Qods Press, Ibrahim al-Ashmawi, of the Egyptian daily "Al-Ahram", Arafat Madabish, of "Al-Akhbar al-Arab", and Ahmed al-Jabali, of "Al-Ittihad". The six journalists were warned that if they wrote any more stories about military matters, their press accreditation would be withdrawn. They told the weekly "Yemen Times" that they were concerned by the ministry's warning, which they said was aimed at gagging the press and stopping them from doing their jobs honestly and freely.
RSF notes that on 30 April, the interior minister warned journalists not to "spread false news liable to harm the country's image and interests." He stressed that the ministry was the only institution allowed to make statements about national security and threatened to take legal action against anyone who disobeyed the rule (see IFEX alert of 6 June 2002).