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IFJ cautiously welcomes statements by authorities, calls for implementation

(IFJ/IFEX) - 20 January 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today welcomed the measures announced by the authorities in Yemen to restore press freedom in the country and guarantee the safety of journalists. The Yemeni Minister of Interior told journalists' leaders and the IFJ that the government will review the restrictions on media, including the ban on Al Jazeera and the Al Ayyan newspaper.

“This is good news for press freedom and journalists in Yemen and we urge the authorities to make good on these undertakings,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. “It is time to end all forms of threats and intimidation of journalists in Yemen.”

The measures were announced by Yemeni Journalists' Syndicates' officials following their meeting with the Minister of Interior in Sana'a on Wednesday. The YJS President Yassine Al Massoud and General Secretary Marwan Dammaj said that the minister promised to lift the ban on Al Jazeera and re-issue work permits to its employees in the country. The authorities also promised to remove restrictions on other media, including the Al Ayyan newspaper which was closed down in 2009.

The meeting which was attended by the IFJ coordinator for the Arab World and Middle East, Monir Zaarour, also discussed the situation at the Saba news agency which was attacked as well as the escalating attacks on journalists since the start of anti –government protests in the country last year in which five journalists and media staff died. The IFJ backs the YJS call to investigate all crimes against journalists in Yemen.

The delegation also visited Saba news agency journalist Abdul Ilah Haider Shaea, imprisoned for alleged links to Al-Qaeda but press freedom organisations are concerned that the journalist is being punished for his criticism of the government's anti-terrorism policy. This was the first YJS visit to him since January 2011 when he was sentenced to a three year jail term. The YJS issued a statement today blaming the American administration for his stay in prison after it objected to his release through a presidential pardon.

The Federation says the Yemeni government will be judged on its actions, recalling its recent denunciation of the authorities' campaign of intimidation against journalists at the 26 September newspaper.

“The implementation of these measures would be a step in the right direction,” added Al Massoud. “But we won't let up until journalists' rights are restored and the impunity which has reduced the voice of the bravest among them to silence is eradicated.”

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