The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the Yemeni government’s decision yesterday to expel one international journalist and deny the entry of another.
According to McClatchy and Buzzfeed, U.S. freelance journalist Adam Baron received a phone call around midnight on Monday saying there was an issue with his documentation. Upon arrival at the immigration office in Sanaa on Tuesday, Baron’s passport was confiscated and he was escorted to a holding cell. He was released after nearly 12 hours in detention and given 24 hours to leave the country, which he did Thursday morning.
Baron tweeted late Thursday night that he is now in Cairo and the only official explanation he has received is that he is “no longer welcome in Yemen.” Baron has written about Yemen for news outlets including McClatchy, Christian Science Monitor,Foreign Policy, and Vice. He most recently reported on a surge in foreigners fighting on behalf of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Yemenis using social media to question the official government narrative of the fight against AQAP.
Another U.S. freelance journalist, Tik Root, was denied entry into Yemen Thursday after flying to Sanaa from Istanbul, according to a series of posts on his Twitter account. He was forced to reboard a plane and return to Turkey.
Like Baron, Root has written about Yemen for many outlets, including Al-Jazeera, Time,The Economist and Foreign Policy. In a recent piece for the online magazine Roads & Kingdoms, Root wrote about a family torn between relatives who joined opposite sides in the struggle between AQAP and the government.
A Yemeni government official who did not wish to be identified told CPJ that Root was denied entry because he lacked a journalist visa and Baron was expelled over an unspecified issue with his papers, but his case was under review. The official said the government is concerned about the safety of foreign nationals working in Yemen, but also noted that other journalists had recently been granted press credentials to enter the country.
According to CPJ research, at least seven journalists were abducted last year in Yemen, including Dutch journalist Judith Spiegel. The security situation in Yemen has been particularly tense since the military launched a major offensive against AQAP forces last month, according to news reports. Today, a motorcade carrying the defense minister, intelligence chief, and military police chief was ambushed while traveling from Abyan to Shabwa province, the reports said. The officials were unhurt, but at least three others were killed.
“We understand the government’s concern for the safety of international journalists in Yemen, but this should not be grounds for denying them entry to the country,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, Sherif Mansour. “We urge the government to allow Tik Root and Adam Baron, along with all journalists, to enter and report freely.”
The U.S. embassy, which has temporarily suspended public services in Sanaa for security concerns, has not publicly commented on the deportations.
Iona Craig, Times of London correspondent in Yemen, posted on Twitter Thursday that she expects more deportations of journalists and is “just waiting for the soldiers to come knocking.”