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New Zealand journalist detained

(IPI/IFEX) - 27 June 2011 - Glen Johnson, a journalist from New Zealand, has been arrested in Yemen. According to the New Zealand Herald, which spoke with Johnson's parents, he is being held for allegedly entering the country illegally from Djibouti.

The 28-year-old freelancer, who has contributed to the New York Times and Le Monde, has covered the Middle East for over two years and had been investigating a people-smuggling ring for a British magazine, according to the journalist's parents, Mike and Lin Johnson. They also told the Herald they believed their son had not been harmed and was currently in a jail in Lahj province.

The Wellington-based Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed Johnson's arrest and said New Zealand embassy officials in Saudi Arabia were providing assistance to their British colleagues in Yemen.

This recent incident is not Johnson's first encounter with the Yemeni authorities. Johnson visited Yemen last year to report on the high rates of female sexual abuse and left after the country gave him 36 hours to depart. He also had been arrested four times and beaten once in Egypt while covering the protests earlier this year.

In 2011, press freedom violations have skyrocketed in Yemen since violent clashes began between opposition forces and the government. May was a particularly bloody month for news organizations and journalists. Several journalists were injured when military forces attacked private satellite broadcaster Suhail TV on 25 May. Reporter Farooq al-Kamali was shot in the leg two days earlier while covering a gun battle between loyalist troops and members of the Hashid tribal federation. That same day, armed men raided the offices of independent daily newspaper Al-Oula, where trainee editor Hasaan Saeed Hasaan was stabbed ten times. On 13 May, newspaper reporter Ibraheem al-Ba'adani was attacked in the city of Ibb by opposition forces after being accused of working for the pro-government news agency; also on that day, journalist Abdel Rahman Bajunaid was found stabbed to death in the city of Aden, reportedly in connection with his support of the youth revolution. Bajunaid was the second journalist killed in Yemen in 2011 following the March shooting death of Al-Masdar reporter Jamal Ahmed al-Sharabi.

IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: "We urge the Yemeni authorities to release Glen Johnson, to allow full access to the country for foreign correspondents, and to ensure that local Yemeni journalists are not obliged to operate in a climate of fear."
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