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Demonstration in defence of free expression violently dispersed by police

(RSF/IFEX) - On 6 October 2009, a demonstration in defence of free expression organised by the NGO Women Journalists without Chains was violently dispersed by police. The group has been organising demonstrations with hundreds of participants every Tuesday since April in Freedom Square in Sana'a, the capital.

The head of the NGO, Tawakkol Karman, gave this account: "The authorities have today revealed their true face (. . .) Each week, hundreds of citizens, journalists and intellectuals have been gathering to defend free expression, talking about the subjects that are dear to them.

"Without fail, despite the police violence, we have been fighting for information about the kidnapped journalist Muhammad Al Maqalih and we have been supporting his family. We have also called for the reopening of the independent newspaper 'Al Ayyam' and the release of journalists Fouad Rashed, editor of the Al Mukallah Press website, and Salah Al Saqladi, the editor of Gulf of Aden news network.

"The police violently dispersed our peaceful demonstration on 6 October on the grounds that we did not have a permit from the interior ministry. The police tried to confiscate our cameras and broke our video camera. Several of us were injured. The authorities regard our actions as a call for revolution that endangers the republic. The sit-ins were prevented during the month of Ramadan."

Karman added: "All this is inadmissible. Such methods are an insult to the Constitution. Are we going to continue the sit-ins? Yes, with even more force. We will resist in order to restore fundamental freedoms and journalists' freedoms, because the authorities have suppressed all the means of expression and information that existed in Yemen."

Reporters Without Borders said: "We are approaching the end of an independent press in Yemen. The government's determination to ban these weekly sit-ins is the final stage in a persecution of journalists aimed at imposing a media blackout on what is happening in the country."

The press freedom organisation reiterates its concern about Al Maqalih, the journalist who was kidnapped three weeks ago. The authorities refuse to provide any information about his current situation or cooperate with attempts to locate him.

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