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Surge in violence against journalists in Yemen amidst Houthi takeover

Houthi fighters ride a truck near the presidential palace in Sanaa January 22, 2015
Houthi fighters ride a truck near the presidential palace in Sanaa January 22, 2015

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

This statement was originally published on on 29 January 2015.

A Yemeni NGO's report that it documented 25 attacks on journalists in Sana'a over the space of two days early this week – including beatings, kidnappings and detentions – is cause for deep concern, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today.

The Freedom Foundation for media freedom, rights and development said that the attacks on local and foreign journalists came on Sunday and Monday as reporters attempted to cover civil demonstrations in the wake of recent political turmoil.

Journalists were threatened and violently prevented from conducting their work, the NGO reported, and cameras and other journalists' tools were also confiscated. The attacks, which Freedom Foundation said were mostly carried out by Shiite Houthi militants, represent nearly half of the 49 media freedom violations Freedom Foundation has recorded this month.

“The sheer number of attacks targeting journalists in such a short period is shocking,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “Just as the death of a journalist from a Houthi-linked media outlet early this month in a bombing targeting the group was unacceptable, so too are attacks on other journalists. We urge Houthi leaders to make clear to their followers that journalists are never legitimate targets.”

Demonstrations broke out in Yemen's capital city over the weekend in the wake of the resignation of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. He and his cabinet stepped down on Jan. 22, after Houthi rebels that had dominated the area since September stormed the presidential compound and placed Hadi under house arrest.

The Houthis cited poor progress on the part of Hadi's administration to adhere to an agreement signed in September that would have granted them greater inclusion in the government. The group has also recently taken over military bases in the area.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters gathered in Sana'a to march in support of Hadi, calling the Houthi takeover illegal. Demonstrators blocked the street in front of Hadi's home, chanting "Leave, Houthis, leave". More protests followed on Sunday after a Parliament session in which the resignation was to be discussed was cancelled to allow more time for negotiations mediated by a U.N. envoy.

Members of the Houthi militia dispersed the protesters with gunfire on Sunday and on Monday Houthi attempts to disband the demonstrations again turned violent.

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