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IFJ calls for end to repression of independent media

(IFJ/IFEX) - 8 July 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today called on the authorities in Yemen to stop the escalating harassment of media, including the detention of journalists, court cases and harsh penalties which are threatening the survival of some of the country's independent news outlets.

"We condemn this onslaught on independent media in Yemen," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "The number of attacks on newspapers by the security forces has been staggering. The regime must end this repression which has laid bare the shocking disregard to press freedom in the country and all independent newspapers should be allowed to resume publication."

According to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate (YJS), an IFJ affiliate, independent media is under siege from the Ministry of Information which has continued a campaign targeting independent journalists. The YJS says journalists have been arrested, including Fuad Rashid and Salah Alsaqldi, respectively editors of Almukala press website and Aden News Network who are detained in the political high security prison.

The YJS further criticises the Yemeni Ministry of Information for lodging hundreds of lawsuits against journalists and the judiciary for some disproportionate penalties such as banning journalists from the profession and suspending licences of newspapers for long periods, endangering the livelihood of journalists and survival of newspapers concerned.

The IFJ supports the JYS call for the long awaited reforms of the press law in Yemen which received the backing of President Ali Abdullah Saleh during the YJS fourth Congress in March this year. These reforms included licensing of independent broadcast media and newspapers. President Saleh also pledged to promote the right of journalists to access information and a fast track procedure for issuing new licences and restoring those of existing newspapers which have been suspended.

"We call on President Saleh to make good on his pledge and put these reforms on the statute book urgently," added Boumelha." The current practice of the government flies in the face of his publicly stated support for the media. Our colleagues must be released immediately and all outstanding charges dropped."

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