Politics & Policy

Journalists in Yemen Being Attacked

Another Arab dictatorship doesn’t want the outside world to see: 

 

Journalists covering the antigovernment movement in Yemen are reporting being attacked by supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and in some cases by state security officers.

The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate has been alerted to 53 cases of harassment in the last few weeks. Those included threatening phone calls and serious physical attacks.

One Yemeni journalist, Mohammed al-Jaradi, said he was walking from the antigovernment demonstration at Sana University back to the office of the newspaper Al Ahali on Friday, when three men dressed in civilian clothes approached him.

One grabbed him by the collar. Mr. Jaradi said he immediately knew why.

“They asked me what I had been taking photos of,” Mr. Jaradi said. “They accused me of taking photos of women.” In Yemen, it is traditionally inappropriate to photograph women.

“I said to them, ‘I am taking photos for the sake of freedom,’ ” he said.

Mr. Jaradi said he was then beaten and thrown to the ground. One attacker took out a jambiya, a traditional dagger that is customary for Yemeni men to carry, and stabbed Mr. Jaradi in the arm. The attackers stole his jacket and shoes, but did not get his camera, which was in his pocket.

Journalists in Yemen typically enjoy greater freedoms than those in most other Arab countries. Many independent news outlets freely criticize government policies, and some opposition members directly attack the president. But the government also has a history of preventing coverage of specific events, like its war with Houthi rebels in the northern Saada Province.

Human Rights Watch, which issued a statement urging the authorities to stop these attacks, believes the government is trying to carry out this type of selective news blackout now.

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