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September 29, 2010

CPJ Decries Lack of Press Freedom in Yemen

A U.S.-based rights group says Yemen is using new tactics in dealing with news media, restrictions that could lead to the "worst climate for press freedom" since the country was unified in 1990.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says the Yemeni government has a "long-standing practice of violent repression."  However, over the past two years, the group says, Yemen has created a special court to prosecute "so-called press offenses."  

The government also is proposing licensing fees that would pose "prohibitive financial barriers" for anyone operating broadcast or online news services.  CPJ said broadcast license fees could cost as much as $167,000, a sum that few individuals or groups in Yemen could raise.  

Yemeni authorities did not immediately respond to the charges raised Wednesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, a program coordinator at CPJ for the Middle East and North Africa, discusses media restrictions in Yemen:

CPJ contends there are unwritten but firm rules on censorship in Yemen - so-called "red lines" that news media must not cross.  These would include any reports on topics including official corruption and Yemen's inability to contain al-Qaida militants.

In other developments Wednesday, authorities say suspected al-Qaida gunmen attacked a convoy in a remote area of Yemen.  One security officer was killed but the apparent targets of the attack - the governor of southern Shabwa province and the army chief of staff  - survived the ambush unharmed.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is active in Shabwa, a mountainous province beyond the reach of the central government in the capital Sana'a.  Al-Qaida militants have staged numerous attacks in Shabwa recently against police and military targets.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.