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Irish journalist deported from Bahrain; reporter kidnapped in Yemen

(RSF/IFEX) - 22 June 2011 - RSF round-up of recent developments in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen:

BAHRAIN

Finian Cunningham, an Irish journalist and writer who has been living in Bahrain for years, was "invited to leave" by the Bahraini authorities, Reporters Without Borders has learned. He returned to Ireland on 19 June. Ever since the start of the pro-democracy movement in mid-February, he had been actively commenting on developments, especially the government-orchestrated crackdown, and had been giving many interviews.

Cunningham told Reporters Without Borders he had a tourist visa that was due to expire in July, but the authorities notified him that it had been cancelled because of his journalistic activities. They warned him that he could be summoned for interrogation if he did not leave within 48 hours.

The trial of Jameel Hassan Al-Shuwaikh, a photographer for the opposition group Al-Wefaq, began before a military court on 14 June. He is charged with "taking photos with the aim of changing and fabricating facts" and sending them to foreign organizations outside the country with the aim of discrediting the government. His family has not been able to visit him since his arrest in the town of Sar on 21 April, when security agents and masked gunmen surrounded his car.

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn of photographer Nedhal Nooh's release on 16 June. A member of the Bahrain Society of Photography, he was arrested on 18 May.

As previously reported, Hassan Salman Al-Ma'atooq, 29, a photographer (and nurse), was arrested on 23 March and was sentenced by court martial on 12 May to three years in prison on four charges, two of which were linked to his work as a photographer: fabricating photos of injured people and disseminating false photos and information.

Many journalists, photographers and cyber-dissidents are currently detained in Bahrain. Those still held include:

- Faysal Hayyat, Ali Jawad, Abdullah Alawi and Jassem Al-Sabbagh, who were arrested after being forced to resign from the newspaper Al-Bilad.
- Ali Omid, Hani Al-Tayf, Fadel Al-Marzouk, Hossein Abdalsjad Abdul Hossein Al-Abbas, Jaffar Abdalsjad Abdul Hossein Al-Abbas, Hamza Ahmed Youssef Al-Dairi and Ahmed Youssef Al-Dairi, who were online forum administrators and moderators.
- Hossein Abbas Salem, a photographer.
- Abbas Al-Murshid, a freelance journalist, writer and contributor to several online forums, who was arrested on 16 May.
- Mohamed Salman Al-Sheikh, the president of the Bahrain Society of Photography, who was arrested on 11 May.
- Mohamed Ali Al-Aradi, a photographer with the newspaper Al-Bilad, who was arrested on 8 May.
- Abdullah Hassan, who had recently been fired from the newspaper Al-Watan. He was arrested on 14 May.
- Hussein Ali Makki, the editor of the Facebook and Twitter pages of Rasad News, an important source of news about human rights violations in Bahrain, who was arrested on 9 June.

SYRIA

Despite the scale of the current crackdown, Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn of journalist and blogger Jehad Jamal's release. Known by the pseudonym of Milan, Jamal had been arrested in Aleppo's Café Milan on 5 May.

After weeks without any news of the blogger Kamal Sheikhou Reporters Without Borders has learned that his trial has been postponed until 28 July.

YEMEN

Reporters Without Borders condemns Al-Sahwa.net correspondent Yahia Al-Thanaya's abduction at a checkpoint near the Al-Dailami air-base, a few kilometres outside Sanaa, on the night of 19 June, just a few days after he reported that the government was illegally holding activists at a secret detention centre within the base. Reporters Without Borders calls for his immediate release.

The editor of the opposition weekly Al-Wahdawi, Ahmed Sayeed Nasser, was threatened on 16 June by a phone caller who accused him of insulting the president and his family in various articles. The caller also said some of the newspaper's reporters could be in danger as a result of the publication of documents shedding light on North Yemen President Ibrahim Al-Hamdi's assassination in 1977.

In an earlier call, someone identifying himself as an interior ministry official had accused the weekly of "going too far." Copies of the newspaper that were due to have been distributed in the cities of Taiz and Hodeidah were meanwhile confiscated on the outskirts of Sanaa and at the entrance to Hodeidah. In a statement, Al-Wahdawi said this was the third time the security forces had seized copies bound for Taiz and Hodeidah since the start of the unrest in Yemen.

Soldiers also seized copies of the independent Sanaa-based weekly Al-Nass on 19 June, one day after security personnel confiscated the latest issue of the daily Al-Oula at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Sanaa.

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