The Yemen-based Media Freedoms Observatory in Yemen launched its annual report on “Freedom of Expression in Yemen in 2020”, which included a comprehensive monitoring of the status of media freedom in Yemen and the violations against media professionals and social media activists during the year. This took place in a symposium in which a number of journalists ,who were subjected to violations during the past year, acted as witnesses to the arbitrary acts practiced against journalists. At the opening of the seminar, in which dozens of journalists and jurists participated via Zoom, Mustafa Nasr reviewed the multiple violations stated in the Freedom of Expression report, which totaled 143, most prominent of which was the killing of 3 journalists, and the issuance of death sentences for 11 journalists during politically motivated trials that lack the simplest legal rules and procedures.
Nasr added that the Observatory tried, through this report, to provide a comprehensive description of the state of media freedoms in Yemen, with a focus on the repercussions of the Coronavirus on journalistic work, the campaign of trials and the killings of journalists during the year. Journalist Hassan Anab – one of the five journalists who were released in the prisoner exchange with the government – also spoke about his kidnapping and the five and a half years he spent in the Houthi prisons, during which he was subjected to enforced disappearance and torture with eight of his colleagues who are still suffering from the effects of torture and are now receiving treatment. He stressed that the efforts made by journalists and human rights organizations, including the Media Freedom Observatory, played a great role in pressuring the Houthi group to take care of their cause despite the arbitrary practices they were subjected to in every media campaign conducted in solidarity with them by journalists and human rights advocates. Another Journalist, Hafsa Aubal, was also subjected to a wide array of harassment, the latest of which was her arrest at Aden airport while traveling outside Yemen, and in the process, she was interrogated , just because her passport showed that she was a journalist. She indicated that she was also subjected to harassment in the Houthi-controlled areas, but, according to her, it is difficult for her to speak out for fear of reprisals, given that she will return to Sana’a at any time.
Journalist Muhammad Al-Yazidi, for his part, spoke about the situation of the press in Hadhramaut in light of the intransigence of the security authorities and the arrest of anyone who dares to criticize or disagree with them. He enumerated a number of violations he was subjected to, including persecution, threats and kidnapping of his sister in an attempt to pressure him to surrender himself, maintaining that he is still separated from his family and home. He further stressed that many journalists have been subjected to harassment and arrests, with their families forced to write pledges not to write again about the situation in the governorate. He indicated that they were even threatened with imprisonment in case they returned.
Journalist Muhammad Al-Hasani, winner of the ARIJ Prize for the best investigative report into the Coronavirus, also spoke about the situation of journalism, which further worsened due to the spread of the Corona epidemic, touching on his own experience as a journalist during the spread of the pandemic. He affirmed that the Corona epidemic did not affect journalists in Yemen only, but also in the Arab world and the world in general, but that the political and security conditions experienced in Yemen, coupled with the lack of information from medical sources, further worsened the situation in the country.
A number of participants in the seminar were unanimous that the situation in the country is difficult due to systematic practices against journalists and the undermining of their independence and freedom by several Influentials.
The Media Freedom Observatory has issued a report on freedom of expression in Yemen, which highlighted 143 violations, including three cases of murder, 11 death sentences against journalists, 7 cases of kidnapping, 10 cases of injury, 11 arrests, 11 cases of assault, 15 cases of threats, and four cases of suspension from work. In addition, there were five cases of violation practiced against media institutions, plus 66 more violations.
The Houthi group topped the list of perpetrators of violations against journalists in Yemen, with 70 of the total cases recorded during the past year; 44 cases of violation committed by parties affiliated with the Yemeni government, 22 violations by unknown persons, three cases committed by parties affiliated with the militants of the Southern Transitional Council, and 4 cases by Influentials.
During the past year, the report said, 37 cases of violation were reported in Al-Jawf city, 30 cases in the capital city of Sana’a, 22 in the city of Taiz, and 17 in Aden. It added that 15 cases of violation were reported during the same year in the city of Hadramout, 10 in the city of Marib, three in Ibb governorate , two each in , and one each in the governorates of Hodeidah, Lahj, Al-Bayda, Socotra, and Abyan.