Journalists still being harassed in countries where protests getting stronger
Reporters Without Borders continues to be very concerned about the repression to which journalists have been exposed in Yemen since the start of a wave of street protests. In the past few days, journalists have been arrested, media have been attacked and newspapers have been confiscated.
The journalist Ali Salah Ahmed was arrested yesterday evening at Sanaa airport on his return from a visit to Germany, and was forcibly taken away to an unknown location. His arrest was apparently linked to his support for the street protests.
After being fired as programme director at the state-owned TV station, he worked for the privately-owned satellite TV station Suhail, which is considered close to the opposition party Islah. The station has been providing live coverage of the demonstrations.
Mohammad Ahmed Al-Mohammadi, a Suhail journalist who also writes for the independent weekly Al-Siha wa Al-Nas, was kidnapped by members of the Republican Guard on the evening of 16 April. His brother said the family had not heard from him since he got a phone call summoning him to Republican Guard headquarters. The same Republican Guard members previously used threats to try to get him to resign from Suhail and work as an informer.
Gunmen stormed the headquarters of the Media Foundation (Shoumou' lil-Sahifa wa Al-I'lam) in Aden on the morning of 18 April, attacking several of its employees. The same day, Republican Guard members seized copies of the independent weekly Hadith Al-Madina, including copies about to be sent to the governorate of Taiz. They were confiscated because of a column by editor Fikri Qasim headlined "Mullah Ali Saleh", making fun of a comment by President Saleh about "illegal mixing of sexes" at anti-government demonstrations. Following Saleh's comment, many women writers, including Hamdi Radman, a reporter for the Imanat news website, were attacked during demonstrations.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the security forces also seized copies of the Akhbar Al-Youm, Al-Oula and Al-Shari' independent dailies on 15 April, attacking the driver of the vehicle carrying the newspapers. Abdallah Mukarim, the editor of SyonPress ( http://www.syonpress.com ), a news website based in the governorate of Hadramaout, received threats on 17 April after posting an article about corrupt practices in the province.
Individuals threatened and attacked Hamoud Al-Hashemi, a reporter for the independent daily Al-Oula, on 15 April because of his coverage of demonstrations in the province of Taiz.
Reporters Without Borders has obtained information about the charges brought against the journalist and writer Fayez Sara, who was arrested on 11 April in Damascus, and the blogger Kamal Hussein Sheikhou, who was arrested during a demonstration outside the interior ministry on 15 March. The press freedom organization calls for the withdrawal of the charges against them and all the others who have been arrested. They should be freed unconditionally at once.
Sara is being investigated by a Damascus court on charges of attacking the prestige of the state, disseminating untrue reports with the aim of undermining national morale, influencing sectarian and ethnic divisions and "disrupting national purity" under articles 285, 286 and 307 of the criminal code.
Sheikhou is being prosecuted on the same charges that were brought against him following his previous arrest in June 2010, namely "publishing information defaming the nation."
Khaled Sid Mohand, an Algerian journalist working for France Culture who was arrested on 9 April, and Mohamed Zaid Mistou, a Norwegian journalist of Syrian origin, are still being held arbitrarily. There is still no word of the journalists Akram Abu Safi and Sobhie Naeem Al-Assal. Many journalists in France have been calling for Mohand's release ( see this Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_149193425148628 ).
A double car-bombing at the entrance to Baghdad's Green Zone at around 8:30 a.m. on 18 March killed Abdul Rahman Al-Kubaisi, an employee of the privately-owned satellite TV station Baghdad TV, as he was going to work. Reporters Without Borders offered its condolences to his family and colleagues, and urges the authorities to do everything possible to identify and arrest those responsible for the bombing.
According to Human Rights Watch, teargas grenades were thrown at the home of Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, on the night of 17 April. No one was injured but the gas caused distress to his 78-year old mother, who suffers from a respiratory ailment. Rajab was accused on 10 April of fabricating photos that showed the marks of torture on the body of a demonstrator who died in detention.