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Yemeni journalist killed by unknown gunmen

Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani
Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

This statement was originally published on on 18 March 2015.

Two gunmen today [18 March 2015] shot dead an award-winning journalist and politician outside his house in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a, local and international news outlets reported. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder.

Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani was gunned down by men on a motorcycle as he came out of his home, the journalist's son said, according to news reports. Al-Khaiwani was taken to a local hospital, but died of his wounds.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, according to news reports.

The murder comes in the midst of ongoing political and military clashes between multiple factions in the country. In September 2014, Houthi rebels overran Sana'a and other cities, forcing the government to resign and eventually prompting President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi to flee to Aden in the south, according to news reports. Houthi forces have also clashed with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

"We call on all sides in Yemen to rise above their political differences and work together to ensure the perpetrators are brought to account," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, from New York.

Al-Khaiwani was the former editor of Al-Shoura news website, which was in opposition to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. At the paper, he wrote editorials that criticized Saleh's policies. In recent years, al-Khaiwani wrote commentaries for local news websites that discussed the political situation in the country.

Al-Khaiwani, always active in politics, became increasingly aligned with the Houthi movement after the uprising that ousted Saleh. He eventually represented the group in the reconciliation dialogue whose purpose was to forge a transition following the ouster, according to Agence France-Presse.

Al-Khaiwani was attacked and imprisoned in recent years in connection with his work, according to CPJ research. In 2008, the journalist was sentenced to six years in prison on the basis of interviews he conducted and articles he wrote that authorities said showed he had conspired with a Houthi rebel leader. Al-Khaiwani served only four months before being pardoned. He was also imprisoned in 2004, CPJ research shows. In 2007, gunmen abducted, beat, and threatened him in connection with an article that criticized Saleh.

In 2008, he was awarded Amnesty International's Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat.

As the security situation deteriorates in the country, journalists have been caught in the crossfire. One journalist, Khaled al-Washli, a Yemeni correspondent for the Houthi-owned Al Masirah TV, died when a bomb exploded in the city of Dhamar on January 4, 2015. The same day, AQAP claimed responsibility for the attack, according to news reports.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Freedom Foundation strongly condemns the murder of journalist Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani

    Freedom Foundation extends its sorrow for the assassination of Al-Khaiwani and expresses its condolences to his family, and calls for the prosecution of the perpetrators.

  • Leading journalist murdered in Sanaa

    “We are deeply saddened by the news of this great journalist and human rights defender’s murder,” said Reporters Without Borders deputy programme director Virginie Dangles. “We urge the authorities to carry out an independent investigation and to take whatever measures are necessary to protect journalists in Yemen.”

  • IFJ joins Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate in calling for independent investigation into murder of senior journalist

    "This is an outrageous and coward act that cannot remain unpunished,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “We stood with him when he was given a 6-year jail sentence during Ali Salah's presidency. I personally delivered him the Amnesty award in March 2009 at his union’s congress and pleaded with the president for the sentence to be cancelled and for intimidation and harassment to cease. Abdul Karim was a brilliant journalist and fought hard for the underdog. His struggle for independent journalists put him at the forefront of the endeavours by Yemeni journalists to ensure that they work without threat to their lives or undue political interference. My heart goes out to his family. "

  • Assassination of Abdul Kareem al-Khaiwani is an agonizing blow to press freedom in Yemen and Arab World

    ANHRI urges the Yemeni authorities to carry out their responsibility of providing security and resolving political conflicts peacefully.

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