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Yemeni journalists victims of war raging in Amran province

As war rages on in Amran province between Houthi Shiite rebels and Sunni tribesmen, journalists find themselves targets of both sides

Armed pro-government tribesmen sit at the back of a truck during a tribal gathering denouncing the deployment of militants of the Shi'ite Houthi group, near Amran city, the capital of Amran province north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa on 13 April 2014
Armed pro-government tribesmen sit at the back of a truck during a tribal gathering denouncing the deployment of militants of the Shi'ite Houthi group, near Amran city, the capital of Amran province north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa on 13 April 2014

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

On 5 August 2014, the Yemen-based Freedom Foundation condemned the kidnapping of two journalists, Yusuf Al-Qahmi and Yusuf Hazeb by armed men from the Houthi rebel group in Amran province north of Yemen's capital Sana'a on. On the morning of 31 July 2014, the two journalists were interrogated, their TV equipment was confiscated and they were detained for four days thereafter.

Hazeb and Al-Qahmi confirmed to Freedom Foundation that they were kidnapped while they were filming and documenting the destruction of citizens' homes in Amran city and of the Hira Koranic school in Al-Warak area as result of the war raging in Amran.

"We were attacked by nine men carrying weapons and traveling in a car with the Houthi slogan, they confiscated the TV camera, a wide angle lens and the camera's memory card," they said in their report to Freedom Foundation. "A few minutes later, our car was stopped by a Houthi police car carrying five gunmen, with the Houthi slogan. They searched us and seized all that we have, including identity cards and papers and interrogated us and asked us why we did not get permission to film from the Political and Media Bureau of Houthi group in Sana'a or in Amran."

They went on to explain, "We were taken to Amran sports stadium and detained there for four days. They released us on 3 August 2014, after we were forced to give them a written pledge that we will not film in any area under Houthi control unless we get permission from the Political and Media Bureau of Houthi group in the capital Sana'a. We also pledged not to publish any news about what happened to us and what we filmed. Moreover, they forced us to film a TV interview for Al-Misirah TV channel, in which we thanked their hospitality, generosity and treatment." The journalists confirmed that their camera, a wide angle lens and memory card containing the filmed materials have not been returned to them yet.

On 6 July 2014, journalist Yahya Al-Tholaya's home was raided because of his coverage of news events in Amran. Al-Tholaya also happens to be the director of the Amran province's cultural office. The armed men who raided his home are also believed to belong to the Houthi rebel group.

"While I was in the capital Sana'a, I was informed by my family that my home had been stormed by Houthi gunmen. I ordered them to evacuate the home immediately in order to preserve their lives," said Al-Tholaya, explaining that this attack was a result of his reporting on the situation in Amran and specifically because of a TV interview on Yemen TV in which he talked about the humanitarian situation there.

Freedom Foundation further condemned the surveillance of journalist Mujeeb Hassan's home in Sana'a as a result of his reports on corruption.

In his report to Freedom Foundation, Hassan confirmed that he was subjected to intermittent surveillance for a month during May 2014 by armed men in various cars, including a police car parked next to the house. "The same people were repeatedly seen in five cars whose plate numbers are registered," he said. "I reported it on 19 May to the police station, one of them was arrested and it turned out to be a captain. He was interrogated and revealed that he and 10 other people working in the security forces were surveilling me."

"Unfortunately, they were not seriously tried because of the intervention of a former senior security official, who refused to bring the perpetrators to justice, the prosecution also did not do its duty and refused to write a note for the police station to quickly capture the rest of the accused, despite the directives of the Human Rights Minister and the Interior Minister to investigate the incident," he explained.

Journalists are continuously being targeted in Yemen as a result of their work as can be seen in the case of the attempted murder of journalist Mansour Al-Faqih by an unidentified gunman as well as the attack on and attempted kidnapping of journalist Tawfik Al-Maslami in Sana'a.

For his part, Mansour Al-Faqih confirmed that he was subjected to attempted murder on 30 June 2014 by an armed and masked man. Two bullets were fired at him and passed straight over his head. "It seems that the person wanted to tell me that it was easy for him to kill me," said Al-Faqih about the incident. "This came after an incitement campaign against me by Al-Misirah TV channel because of my publishing and coverage of the ongoing war in Amran."

Meanwhile, Tawfiq Al-Musalmi said in a report to Freedom Foundation, "While I was walking on 1 July 2014 in Madhbah Street, in Sana'a, I was surprised as a car stopped next to me with three masked gunmen inside. They threatened me saying "if you do not stop publishing on Ansar Allah group, you will be punished". Then they tried to push me towards the car by force and at gunpoint, but I resisted them, they attacked me with the butts of their guns on my head, causing injury. Some passers-by in the street intervened and the attackers fled."

"This incident happened because of my news coverage for Yemen News on the ongoing war in Amran," he said.

Freedom Foundation strongly condemns these kidnappings, attacks, attempted murders and threats of assassinating journalists because of their coverage of the events in Amran province. It also demands that the security authorities carry out their duty to protect journalists and the media and ensure their safety while performing their professional duty. It also calls on them to hold perpetrators accountable and to prosecute them accordingly. Freedom Foundation also calles on the Houthi Ansar Allah to fulfill their obligations to protect human rights in its controlled areas as such violations restrict journalists from carrying out their work and limit their freedom.

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