Political Analysis

Yemen: 359 Cases Against Journalists in 2014

National Yemen

Luke Somers

By NY Staff

On Sunday, January 11th, the Freedom Foundation for Media Freedom, Rights and Development in Yemen monitored and documented 359 cases against journalists and media in Yemen during 2014. The cases include 11 types of violation committed by 8 parties, armed groups committing most violations.

The Freedom Foundation clarified that violations on journalists and the media have increased during 2014 in terms of numbers, types, and danger compared to the previous year, which reveals that media freedom in Yemen is facing imminent risk.

The Freedom Foundation monitored these violations in Yemen under the project of Media Freedom: Monitoring and Advocacy that is implemented by the Freedom Foundation in cooperation with the European Union Mission in Yemen. The project lasted for two years, from March 2013 to February 2015.

The violations of the rights and freedoms of journalists and the media, showed that the threat on media freedom increased during the second half of 2014 following the events that took place in the capital Sana’a and other areas in Yemen.

The largest percentage of violations on media practitioners with various specializations, attitudes, and fields, as well as violations suffered by media outlets in 2014, were committed by armed groups in the almost total absence of government and its security organs, which are supposed to do their role in protecting journalists and various media outlets and corporations. The number of violations increased rapidly with the arrival of Houthi gunmen to Sana’a on September 21st. Moreover, the condemning statements and constant demands to stop controlling and attacking the media outlets and corporations, particularly the state-owned media, has not been met by any response by the Houthis.

The report indicated that armed groups were behind the greater percentage of violations on journalists and media corporations, while government agencies in the first half of 2014 were behind the greater percentage of violations.

When comparing the percentage of violations during the first half of 2014 with the second half, it can be found that the percentage increased during the last six months in terms of the number and risk, where new types of violations emerged including storming offices, closing offices, confiscating the media tools, and controlling media outlets, in violation of the law which resulted in stopping of TV and radio channels.

The Freedom Foundation stated that the violations were distributed over 11 types: 2 murder cases, 13 attempted murder cases, 29 arrest and detention cases, 58 physical attack cases, 12 disappearance and kidnapping cases, 4 unfair trials, 25 ceasing and arbitrary dismissal, 42 looting and damage cases, 44 verbal insulting and incitement, 50 prevention and equipment confiscation cases, and 80 threat cases.

The threats, attacks, prevention and confiscation represented the largest percentage of violations, where threats reached 22.2% and attacks 16.1%, while prevention and confiscation comes in the third in terms of the number and percentage with 13.9%.

Two journalists were murdered in August and December 2014. The audio director of Sana’a Radio Abdul Rahman Hamid Al-Din, was shot in the head and taken to the hospital on Saturday, August 16th 2014 where he died. In addition, American photojournalist Luke Somers was killed on December 6th 2014 in Shabwa province after about 13 months of his kidnapping in September 2013 from the center of the capital Sana’a. He was brutally killed during a US-Yemeni joint military operation to free him from al-Qaeda captors. Assassination attempts and attempted murders reached 13 cases.

The monitoring found that violations were committed by the following groups: the security and the army 19.4%, government authorities 4.7%, partisan parties 0.3%, armed groups 30.6%, influential figures 8.1%, judicial bodies 1.2%, employment parties 10.9%, and unknown 24.8%. These percentages show that armed groups committed 110 violations against journalists, media outlets and corporations.

These statistics and ratios confirm that violations in 2014 varied in type and method and created a threat to media freedom, especially after the sudden shift towards the use of violence against journalists and media corporations and outlets.

One of the most prominent cases of violations during 2014 was the shooting of the cameraman of Al-Marisa TV, Imad Al-Hamzi, in the chest by Private Security Forces while filming a protest near the Ministers Council in Sana’a on September 9th 2014.

Also, Yemen Today TV was stormed on June 11th 2014 by military forces affiliated with the presidential protection unit, which confiscated a transmitter and all equipment, including devices, cameras, servers, hard disks and the archive of the TV materials of the channel.

The compound of the state-owned TV in the north of the capital Sana’a, which includes three TV channels, was shelled with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades and shoulder-fired missiles by gunmen belonging to the Houthis on September 18th 2014, who occupied and stopped the broadcast on September 20th 2014 after three days of shelling and a siege of the compound.

Another attack was on Suhail TV in Sana’a that was stormed, its tools were looted, and broadcasting was stopped for about 43 hours. A number of its guards and staff were detained by more than thirty gunmen belonging to the Houthis on September 22nd 2014 because of the channel’s coverage of ongoing events in Yemen.

The violations monitoring and documentation process carried out by the Freedom Foundation revealed the systematic and deliberate targeting of journalists and media attacks, practicing various attacks on media freedoms and journalists’ rights and following the policy of impunity, where none of the perpetrators were held accountable.

The targeting of Yemeni and Arab crews of TV channels and preventing them from covering events in some areas by governmental and official bodies and by armed groups and other political parties make them a victim of the political conflict and reveal that there are an orientation to prevent them from covering and documenting protests and stopping the coverage of events in more than one region of the country.