12 October 2011

"Mother of the Revolution" wins peace prize; two journalists killed

Tawakul Karman congratulated by supporters in Sanaa after it was announced that she won the Nobel Peace Prize
Tawakul Karman congratulated by supporters in Sanaa after it was announced that she won the Nobel Peace Prize
Freedom of expression organisations around the world are cheering the news that Yemeni press freedom advocate Tawakkul Karman was among three women awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week. But the celebration is also marked with sadness and frustration due to the murders of two more Yemeni journalists, say IFEX members.

The International Press Institute (IPI), Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) report the Nobel committee has this year recognised the tireless work of three women fighting for peace and democracy: Karman, a partner of several IFEX members, as well as Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Founder of Yemeni group Women Journalists Without Chains, Karman was instrumental in organising the protests against the human rights abuses of the 30-year regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh long before the "Arab Spring". She has been jailed numerous times since her organisation first launched non-violent protests in 2007, notes IPI, IFJ and ARTICLE 19.

While ARTICLE 19 reports that Karman has received many death threats, the mother of three is adored by Yemen's pro-democracy protesters, who refer to her as the "Mother of the Revolution". Thousands gathered in a peaceful sit-in to demand her release from jail after she was arrested in January, says RSF. She has been a tireless advocate for free expression, and held regular sit-ins to demand freedom for jailed journalists.

"I dedicate [this prize] to all the martyrs and wounded of the Arab Spring… in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria and to all the free people who are fighting for their rights and freedoms," Karman told the BBC Arabic Service.
Sadly, also last week Abdel Hakim Al-Nour, a cameraman with the Hayel Saeed Anam Association, and Abdel Majid al-Samawi, a reporter with Al-Yemeniya TV, died, according to RSF. Al-Nour was killed on 3 October while reporting on a military offensive in Taiz province. Al-Samawi died in hospital on 4 October, succumbing to a gunshot wound from the sniper fire that hit him a week earlier while covering an anti-government protest in Sanaa, RSF reports.
With IFEX organisations reporting numerous cases of assassination attempts on journalists in Yemen, it is not unlikely the journalists were specifically targeted by pro-Saleh forces.
Their deaths bring the number of journalists killed on duty to five since the start of Yemen's pro-democracy protests. RSF notes that killings of demonstrators have especially escalated since President Saleh returned to Yemen from Saudi Arabia on 3 October.

Recognising that it has been one year since Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiabo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, RSF is calling for this year's three female honourees to use their celebrity to draw attention to the fact that Xiabo remains in prison, where he is often held in solitary confinement and denied family visits.

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Two more journalists killed in Saleh regime violence 6 October 2011
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