Category Archives: Yemen

The State of Journalism in Yemen

yemenThe wave of unrest that began in January 2011 to the transition of power in Yemen from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to newly-elected President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in 2012 signified the people’s dream for freedom from a 33-year dictatorship. But hopes for a better Yemen have been crushed by the atmosphere of anarchy, total lawlessness and violence which has claimed the lives of 25 journalists in 2015 alone, following the resignation of Hadi on January 22, 2015 after Shiite Houthi rebels stormed his home, forcing him to flee Yemen.

The attempted assassination of Mansour Nour, the continued imprisonment of prominent Yemeni journalist Abdul Elah Haider Shaye and the recent kidnapping of Yemeni journalist Waheed al-Sufi are just a few examples of the true state of security which mirrors the decrepit conditions of press freedom in Yemen. Air strikes spearheaded by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition of 10 countries directed towards Houthi-controlled territory in an attempt to restore President Hadi to office, as well as public protest calls addressed to Houthi militants calling for the release of imprisoned journalists have fallen on deaf ears. Instead, extremists are responding with journalist- centered violence in an attempt to put a cap on press freedom and objective reporting in Yemen.

Even now, journalists in Yemen are living with intimidation, threat, and fear of violent reprisal which not only affect them, but are also carried to family, friends and colleagues. Questions to which they have no answers are raised in their minds, foremost of which is, how they can remain safe and still perform their civilian duty of truthful conflict reporting. Another question is, whether this stressful day-to-day living under threat would negatively affect future generations of journalists operating in war-torn countries and cause them to be content with watered-down facts in exchange for their safety. They have seen too many examples of colleagues who continue the work in spite of the risks, out of love for the job. Yet, they see the very same people eventually buckle down from the psychological toll of living under constant threat, leading them to realize that being a journalist in Yemen is a real challenge, and it is no longer enough to have courage and experience because war could kill.

The four greatest risks to journalists today in the order of importance are: Surveillance (33%), Imprisonment (29%), Murder (22%) and Kidnapping (16%). The risks are evenly distributed and not confined to well-known international media personnel or foreign correspondents; the reality is that nine out of ten are local media men covering local news.

Even if they have learned to live with the hazards of competent journalism, phone tapping, roving bugs, surveillance cameras, cell-site location information, call and email records still remain a stark reality the moment they enter into a conflict area. If journalists intend to protect themselves, they have to adopt stringent measures to protect the identity of their sources through secure and untraceable tip lines, surveillance-resistant equipment such as state-of-the-art encryption software, cell-site location information and gap computers, blending into the local population to stay out of the discerning eye of government surveillance. Journalists traveling to Yemen ofte do hostile environment awareness training before arriving.

Despite previous indications of radical changes in Yemen’s government information mouthpiece in the form of news and television channels, the journalists’ high hopes that media is going in the right direction has been squelched. Journalists and cameramen covering military operations, indiscriminate filming of bombing sites, reporting demonstrations protesting issues that affect the Yemeni population and documenting politically sensitive issues such as terrorist networks, corruption, civilian conflicts and anything which would put the government in a bad light, all meet the same fate.

Abdul Elah Haider Shaye, who attracted international renown for reporting the true circumstances of the 2009 bombing of Al Majallah village in southern Yemen, and his exclusive interview with a top Al Quaeda official, put him in bad graces of the Yemeni government, resulting in his imprisonment. He was convicted by the Specialized Criminal Court for Terrorism in January 2011 and sentenced to up to five years in prison. He would have been released by virtue of a presidential pardon a month after his conviction, but former Yemeni President Saleh recanted his decision following intervention from U.S. President Barack Obama, and to this day, concerted action to demand his release have been unsuccessful. Just barely 8 months before Shaye will have served the full 5-year sentence, the journalist community watches with apprehension the final outcome of Shaye’s ordeal when someone else is holding the key.

This is the reality of the plight of journalists in Yemen, and in any other conflict area for that matter. Their profession, albeit a noble one is not without its hazards, but each one can provide a support system for another and adopt measures to lessen the risks and ensure their safety.

Is Yemen Ruled By Law Of Emergency?

yemen

‘’He was shopping one day at the center and gunmen kidnapped him, ‘said Khaled al-Anesi, the popular Yemen layer for human rights, of his young client Mobley Sharif, a US citizen. He claims that he was tortured and beaten in jail. Here’s where it gets suspicious. His own government was aware that he was tortured and missing for a year, according to the young man. ‘’They arrived in civilian clothes and he mistook them for tribal gunmen and tried to save his dear life by running. He was shot and arrested. He was brought to the cells by US investigators that threatened to kill him then rape his dear wife. The young man was beaten and his leg broken.’’

It is not clear whether Mr. Mobley who became a Yemen citizen in 2008 to learn Arabic was in any way involved with the number one terrorist group, Al-Qaeda in the Peninsula. This is the most feared terrorist group in Yemen. In fact, no evidence shows he was involved in Al-Qaeda.

Anwar al-Alwaki had regular contact with Mr. Mobley. He was the group’s spiritual leader. The United States says he was the master propagandist in the terrorist cell and was later killed in a U.S. drone strike. According to official reports, Mr. Mobley met the spiritual leader in 2000 in New York. Awlaki was emailed by Mobley, whose wife was pregnant. He wanted recommendations on where to take her wife.

On March 2020, Mobley tried to escape from the hospital he was in. According to official reports, Mobley shot and fatally injured a guard and all terrorism charges he had were dropped and now he is in jail waiting to be tried for murder. His lawyer has not seen him for months and Mobley says that he has missed more than four trial hearing because those who took him failed to take him to court. ‘’They did not have a right to detain him according to Yemeni law,’’ said his lawyer, Mr. Anesi.

The lawyer claims that Mr. Mobley’s case was delayed indefinitely due to inconsistencies in Yemen judicial system. As Anesi argues, the government has been ready to proceed with his case but for unknown reasons, Mr. Mobley still remains a captive. ‘’The hearing process will move faster soon, said an official who doesn’t with to be named for safety reasons.

An American told Mr. Mobley that Yemen has no constitutional jurisdiction. We are able to do as we please.’’ Well, they did exactly that, said his lawyer.’’ His story has a large audience because Mr. Mobley has his roots in American not a Yemen citizen. He belongs to a group of people who share the same story, said Belkis Wille, a Kuwait and Yemen research for Human rights.
A popular Yemen judge says that Yemen will slowly become disintegrated because the law is never followed even by government officials. For instance,’’ Yemen constitutional law prohibits anyone from killing someone, he said.’’ ‘’It is unfair and unconstitutional to kill anyone without due process, a fair trial so to speak.’’ He further claims that Yemen by law of emergency, not by constitution. America made dozens rules and Yemen abides by those rules.

According to rules enacted by the United States on 2011, a law was passed in the wake of the Twin Towers bombing and offers a legal framework for a ‘’bloody war without end in near’’ This act is widely used and seems to disown United States human rights protocol and has a dire impact that affect Yemen when it comes to legal matters.

‘’It is sad that Americans comes here and do whatever they want’’ said Mawri. It weakens the government’s judicial jurisdiction. ‘’The citizens feel that if the judges cannot protect their reputation, who else will help them, a great state of shame,’’