Monday, July 18, 2011

Yemeni journalists protest harassment, censorship

By AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press

July 18, 2011

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — About 100 journalists protested Monday in the capital Sanaa against harassment and censorship by authorities. One newspaper editor said he was forced to distribute his daily in banana boxes to avoid government censors.

The protest was held outside the residence of Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is acting head of state while the president is in Saudi Arabia recuperating from wounds he sustained in an attack on his compound.

The editor of al-Nass newspaper, Osama Ghaleb, said he used to distribute his newspaper to other provinces inside banana boxes to ensure the copies would not be confiscated by security.

"But unfortunately this method was exposed lately," said Ghaleb.

The demonstration by journalists is part of wider anti-government protests that have been going on for more than four months, demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Security has been deteriorating sharply across the Arab world's poorest country.

In clashes Monday between government forces and tribesmen seeking to oust Saleh, five people were killed and six injured from the same family when a government artillery shell hit their home. The shelling hit the village of Beit Zuhra in the city of Arhab north of the capital Sanaa, said Sheik Hamid Assem of the Arhab tribe. Tribal leaders in the Arhab and Naham mountains, also north of Sanaa, said another 14 people were injured from shelling Monday.

The artillery fire was the military's response to a dawn raid by anti-government tribesmen on an army checkpoint that wounded five soldiers, according to tribal leaders. The mountainous region has been the site of frequent clashes between the elite Republican Guard forces and anti-Saleh tribes. Since April, shelling by government troops in this area has killed around 30 civilians and left 200 injured, said Sheik Assem.

Journalists working for independent and anti-government newspapers said they have been attacked and singled-out by security forces.

The Center for Rehabilitation and Protection of Freedom of Press in Yemen has documented 465 cases of harassment of journalists in the past six months, which include threats, aggression, and detention.

Calls by journalists to meet with the vice president have gone unheeded, according to the head of Yemen's journalists syndicate, Marwan Damaj.

Editors of seven dailies and weeklies said army and security personnel at checkpoints have recently confiscated and burned copies of independent and anti-government newspapers meant for distribution to cities outside the capital.

Seif al-Haderi, chief of a publication house that issues two independent newspapers, al-Shemou and Akhbar al-Youm, said security men in the southern city of Taiz on Sunday set fire to a bus carrying the two publications.

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