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ANHRI concerned over impact of government actions on freedom of expression

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, December 13, 2009 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights (ANHRI) expressed concern about the measures that the Yemeni government has been taking to suppress freedom of opinion and expression.

The first of these measures was the trial of three journalists on charges of spreading rumours that destabilize the public peace and inciting national separation and hatred, calling for the independence of the South and supporting the rebels in the South. Moreover, the Prime Minister prohibited the publication of any government advertisements in the independent press. Finally, activist Yasser Abdel Wahab AlWazir, a member of the Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms, will stand before the Criminal Court of First Instance in Sana'a on charges of "forming an armed gang".

The Yemeni Penal Specialized Court (a court that is linked to the state security) has adjourned the trial of the three reporters to 20 December 2009, at which time the defense's request to refer the case to the press court will be considered. Journalists Fouad Rashid, Salah Al Saqldy and Ahmed Rabizi are facing many accusations including "threatening national security". On the other hand, the three journalists accused the security forces of hacking into their e-mails and violating their privacy. They also pointed out that instead of facing publishing offences for the material they have published, they are being prosecuted on criminal offences. During the trial, many activists stood in solidarity with the journalists. However, the security forces prevented them from holding a demonstration.

The Yemeni Prime Minister, Ali Mohammed Mujur, banned the publication of any state advertisements in any independent press. This measure is considered by independent and partisan press editors to be "the last straw". This order, they state, is aimed at killing off all opposition newspapers that depend during the economic crisis on revenues from these advertisements. Independent and partisan newspapers (amounting to more than 25 newspapers) are now at risk of closing down at any moment. The papers are facing a crisis especially after being heavily criticized for receiving financial support from the Ministry of Information.

As regards the human rights activist Yasser AlWazir, he has been detained since June 2008 in a political security prison in Sana'a. He was arrested by state security forces and detained in the state security prison in Sana'a, where he was tortured before being transferred to the Political Security Prison in Sana'a. He was brought to trial before the Criminal Court of First Instance in Sana'a on charges of "forming an armed gang".

The activist was arrested and prosecuted in reaction to his work in exposing human rights violations by the Yemeni government, particularly as regards the conflict involving the Hothies rebels in Sa'ada, northern Yemen.

ANHRI called on the Yemeni government to end all repressive practices against political activists and defenders of freedom of opinion and expression. ANHRI also called on the Yemeni press to unite against the Yemeni government's actions against them, which include imprisonment and financial measures against them.

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