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IFJ Condemns Outrageous Attacks on Media in Yemen

May 7, 2009

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned attacks by Yemeni authorities on independent media which have been seized after the government accused them of publishing material allegedly "harmful to the national unity".

"This full assault on media is unprecedented in decades, even by Yemeni standards of press freedom," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "It is intolerable that the government behaves in such a heavy handed way after recent pledges by President Saleh to support the right of journalists to access information and licenses for new and suspended newspapers."

According to reports, Yemeni authorities carried out raids on independent media in the country on 4 and 5 May, seizing thousands copies of Al Diyar, Al Share, Al Masdar, Al Nidah, Al Mustaqilla, Al Watai and Al Ayyam newspapers. They also closed down Al Ayyam's website, laid siege to its offices and detained some staff members.

The media crackdown was reportedly triggered by articles in those newspapers about clashes between government's forces and protesters in the south which the government says are "harmful to the national unity ".

The Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate (YJS), an IFJ affiliate, also vigorously condemned the action which it describes as the worst attempt to shackle the press since 1990 and a blatant violation of the country's constitution.

The IFJ supports the YJS call for a free and secure environment in which newspapers can fulfil their professional duties to the public they seek to inform about diverse issues of national interest.

"The government's action is counterproductive. Censorship breeds suspicion and rumour mongering," added Boumelha. "Only a free and open debate with different shades of opinions can command public trust and credibility in a democracy."

The IFJ last week published a report - Breaking the Chains - calling for a radical overhaul of media press laws in the Middle East and Iran which featured Yemen among countries where such laws criminalise independent reporting under the cloak of national interests.

For more information contact:
International Federation of Journalists
Phone: +32 2 235 2207

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