Monday, March 14, 2011

Authorities begin to target foreign journalists, six deported

14 March 2011.

Reporters Without Borders condemns today’s arrests of four Sanaa-based foreign journalists – two American and two British – who were detained by police at 7:30 a.m. at the apartment they shared in Sanaa’s old quarter.

The two Britons are Oliver Holmes, who strings for the Wall Street Journal and Time, and Portia Walker, who strings for the Washington Post. The Americans are Haley Sweetland Edwards, who writes for the Los Angeles Times and AOL News, and Joshua Maricich, who writes for various media including the Yemen Times.

Reporters Without Borders has been told that Maricich and Walker were deported to Ethiopia but has not yet been able to establish the current whereabouts of Homes and Edwards.

The Sanaa authorities said they are arrested for “residing illegally in Yemen.” But, according to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, they had been living and working in the country for several years and were known to the authorities, including the information ministry. For the past few weeks, they had been busy covering a wave of protests calling for the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled since 1979.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that Patrick Symmes, a US journalist working for Outside magazine and GQ magazine, and his Italian photographer, Marco Di Lauro, were detained shortly after passing through a passport control on arrival at Sanaa airport on 12 March and were deported the same day. They had flown to Sanaa after several days reporting on the Yemeni island of Socotra.

Symmes told Reporters Without Borders: “Our passports were seized and we spent 14 hours in the departure lounge before being put on a flight to Istanbul. The interior ministry’s press officer told me by phone that the national security agency had decided to expel us because it had information that we were coming to Sanaa to cover demonstrations and violence. We were not physically mistreated but there were clear threats that this could happen. Our passports were given back once we were on the plane.”

Symmes added that he had entered Yemen on a press visa on 1 March.

The arrests and deportation of foreign journalists are a very worrying sign of nervousness on the part of the authorities, who are sending a clear signal to other journalists working for foreign media not to report the abusive treatment that demonstrators have been receiving from the security forces,” Reporters Without Borders said.

This is a blatant act of censorship that must be strongly condemned. After targeting Yemeni journalists, the authorities now want to gag the foreign media and impose a news blackout on the events taking place in Yemen.”

The authorities are continuing to use violence against Yemeni journalists and the list of abuses gets dangerously longer by the day.

Hamoud Hazza, a reporter for the Saba news agency, sustained a head injury while covering clashes between the security forces and demonstrators on Change Square in Sanaa on 12 March. Jaber Saber, a journalist working for the Marib Press news agency, was assaulted by members of the security forces on the square.

Abdel Salam Jaber, the editor of the newspaper Al-Qadiya, was kidnapped by the security forces while on his way to the square on 12 March. His present whereabouts are not known. The Union of Yemeni Journalists issued a statement that evening describing the incident as “grave.” In a separate incident the same day, Abdel Karim Al-Shaibani, a reporter for the satellite TV station Al-Hurra, was beaten up by thugs on a Sanaa street.

source: Reporters Without Borders

Yemen’s sheikhs balance power with legitimacy

Yemen’s sheikhs balance power with legitimacy

By Abigail Fielding-Smith

March 14 2011

Yemeni pro-government tribesmen hold Yemenís national flags and posters of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh

Above a widescreen TV in the opulent Sana’a residence of Sheikh Ali Saleh al-Ashwal is a clay model of the village of which he is the tribal leader, in the water-scarce district of Amran, north of the capital.

Unlike his uncle, who led the 15,000-strong tribe before him, Mr Ashwal has his main residence in Sana’a, not in the village, although he visits it regularly. “One leg is here and one leg is there,” he says. “Time changes the role of the sheikh.”

Yemen’s heavily armed tribes have a sizeable influence on society, and sheikhs such as Mr Ashwal are seen as central to resolving the current crisis, in which a growing popular protest movement is calling for an end to the 32-year rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The president, who hails from one of the most powerful tribal confederations, the Hashid, built his power on alliances with tribal sheikhs. In recent weeks, he – and opportunistic opposition figures – have been meeting tribal leaders to try to secure their support.

Whether Mr Saleh, stays or goes and whether the situation descends further into violence or not, is thought to depend largely on sheikhs such as Mr Ashwal. But analysts say tribal leaders no longer have the control over their people they once wielded.

“Tribal governance used to work well because people were just farmers,” says Nadwa al-Dawsari, an expert in tribal conflict. “There was no Saudi or [Yemeni] government giving sheikhs money, no oil companies, no technology, no elections.”

Now, she says, there is a bulging youth population that has less understanding and respect for tribal values, decreasing resources, urbanisation and some sheikhs live in the capital instead of their villages. “The system is disintegrating and is increasingly unable to handle land disputes and revenge killings.”

One of the factors undermining tribal authority during the past thirty years has been the flow of oil wealth, which has helped create an urbanised tribal elite distant from the concerns of rural tribesmen.

Tribal leaders’ authority is traditionally derived from the wisdom with which they arbitrate disputes. The country is still riven by tribal quarrels and blood feuds revolving around land, water, women or honour, and sometimes all four, which can last decades. According to Ahmed Ismail Mohammed Abu Houria, a tribal leader since 1962, the chief role of the sheikh is to “act as judge or mediator among the tribesmen with each other”.

Sitting in his mafraj, or sitting room, in Sana’a, Mr Abu Houria explains the principles of tribal justice and conflict mediation techniques, as assistants show him a verdict of a recent dispute. It is written in calligraphy on sheets of paper taped together that, when unfolded, stretch the length of the room.

“It is conventional wisdom inherited from our grandfathers,” says Mr Abu Houria. “Even if someone is killed from your tribe you shouldn’t take revenge in markets, mosques, highways and main cities.”

A shift in emphasis in the role of a sheikh to someone who accesses and distributes resources is a recent phenomenon. Ms Dawsari says the ability to mediate conflicts is still at the core of sheikhs’ legitimacy.

Mr Ashwal’s response to being asked about the role of the sheikh is to say: “He is the representative of the whole tribe in front of the official places.”

Mr Ashwal, who keeps a building for villagers to stay in when they come to Sana’a, says he has effected changes in his village since becoming sheikh. “Before, there was one classroom; now, two secondary schools have been built, one for girls, one for boys, and four elementary schools.”

As he speaks, he receives a phone call from a tribesman needing money to get married, and simply sends a son out to pick up the cash.

Mr Ashwal seems well connected with his community. But, according to Sarah Phillips, a Yemen expert at Sydney university, there is a pattern, associated with President Saleh, whereby sheikhs derive wealth and power from the centre – and this has weakened their authority.

“By inducing so many of the country’s tribal sheikhs into his cash-based networks, Saleh has risked undermining their authority vis a vis their tribesmen,” says Dr Phillips. “Now, as the president’s back is pressed more closely to the wall, the sheikhs may be less capable of delivering loyal tribesmen on demand.”

Source: The Financial Times

Research and Markets: 2011 Yemen - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts

( has announced the addition of the "Yemen - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts" report to their offering.

Yemen is much the poorest country in the Middle East and economic difficulties are numerous. Around 35% of the population is below the poverty line. The telecoms sector reflects this situation. In addition the market has had little liberalization, competition or private investment outside the mobile sector. All fixed-line and Internet services are provided by state-owned PTC and its subsidiaries.

Infrastructure improvement has been slow and fixed-line penetration remains at less than 5%. ADSL broadband services have been launched however and both dial-up and broadband Internet subscribers are growing steadily but from a very small base, and Internet user penetration remains at only around 6.5%. Yemen's low literacy rate, at about 50% of the population, is a major reason for low Internet penetration. Among adult women, literacy rates are only around 25%. Low Internet penetration rates also reflect the small number of computers in the country. Most Internet users access the Internet at Internet cafes, of which there were nearly 1,000 in 2009.

Internet censorship is very strict even local sites such as the UAE-based Arab portal Maktoob and Yemeni news portal have been blocked.

Mobile telecoms are the big success story. Steady growth over the past two years has seen penetration rates rise to over 30%. Batelco of Bahrain and MTN of South Africa have major shares in GSM mobile operators. They each have about a third of the market with the majority state-owned CDMA operator Yemen Mobile also having around one third market share. Newer operator Y' remains a smaller player.

ARPU levels are very low at only around US$7 per month and this may account for the problems that arose with the sale of a third GSM licence, a process that took at least two years and resulted in a not entirely satisfactory outcome. As most other Middle East markets are becoming totally saturated, Yemen will probably remain of interest as one of the few markets with potential for growth.

Yemeni protesters killed in violent attacks

14 March 2011

Amnesty International has urged the Yemeni authorities to identify and prosecute members of the security forces responsible for the killings of at least eight anti-government demonstrators over the weekend.

Two protesters were killed and over 1,000 injured in the capital Sana’a on Saturday when security forces opened fire on members of a protest camp during their early morning prayer, while pro-government “thugs” were reported to have attacked ambulances trying to attend to the wounded.

At least six other protesters were killed on Saturday and Sunday after being shot in the cities of Aden and al-Mukalla, bringing the total death toll among protesters since calls for reform in the country began last month to at least 40.

“It is disturbing that Yemeni security forces appear to be targeting protesters in a way that maximizes death and serious injury,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“To strike when protesters are most vulnerable, such as during prayer, and to then prevent medical staff from doing their work shows that the security forces are acting above the law.”

Violence erupted in Sana’a early on Saturday morning when police attacked praying protesters with live bullets, batons and tear gas.

At least 20 people were shot, while “thugs” affiliated to the security forces temporarily stopped ambulances from entering the protest camp, with one vehicle destroyed.

On Saturday and Sunday in Aden and al-Mukalla, at least six people taking part in protests in solidarity with the protesters attacked in Sana’a were killed.

A 14-year-old boy was shot dead by security forces in al-Mukalla. At least five people were killed in the Dar Sa’ad area of Aden.

Activists taking part in the Sana’a protest told Amnesty International that security forces had opened fire without provocation.

“On Friday night we started suspecting that the security forces were preparing to take action against us after they increased their presence in the area. We started chanting ‘It is peaceful, it is peaceful’, but later they attacked us while we were praying,” one student member of the protest camp said.

“The unrest in Yemen shows no signs of abating - rather the weekend’s events indicate that the government’s crackdown on protesters is intensifying,” said Philip Luther.

“The Yemeni authorities must rein in the security forces and hold accountable those responsible for such ruthless policing.”

Source: Amnesty International

President Saleh meets sheikhs, dignitaries in Sana'a

SANA'A, March 14, 2011- President Ali Abdullah Saleh met on Monday with sheikhs, social figures, members of local councils, leaders of political parties and youths of Khawlan district in Sana'a governorate.

During the meeting, President Saleh expressed thanks to the attendants over their patriotic stances to support Yemen's security, stability and revolution, affirming his rejection for chaos, violence, vandalism and terrorism. He said that sons of Yemen reject voices calling for sedition.

The attendants also expressed their support for President's initiative which calls for dialogue, affirming their stances to safeguard Yemen's unity, stability and security.

Source: (Saba)