25 October 2011

Campaigns and Advocacy

IPI interviews "Yemen Post" editor on reporting on the uprising

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 24 Oct. 2011 – Egyptian elections are coming up, Tunisia has voted for its new constitutional assembly, and Libya's transitional government declared the country free this week. But in Yemen, the struggle is far from over. Protestors continue to demonstrate against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has repeatedly refused to concede to opposition demands and leave office. Since he returned from Saudi Arabia in late September, where he had travelled for medical treatment following an attack, violence has only worsened. More protestors have been killed by pro-Saleh troops. Observers fear that the crisis may turn into a full-scale civil war – just this weekend, only days after the United Nations called on President Saleh to step down in exchange for immunity from prosecution, at least twelve people were reportedly killed and many more wounded after fighting broke out in the capital between renegade forces and loyalist troops.

Amidst the chaos, Yemeni journalists, working to get the story out, are under attack.

IPI spoke with the publisher and chief editor of the Yemen Post, Hakim Almasmari, about the censorship, violence and intimidation that any independent Yemeni media outlet must contend with.

In the past weeks we have seen report after report of journalists and their families receiving threats and facing assault on the streets. Newspapers have been confiscated and their offices burned. Almasmari said that Skype had been "cancelled" since February, when the government found out journalists were using it to conduct interviews. Since Saleh returned on 23 September, four photojournalists have reportedly been killed. But according to Almasmari the international media is still not paying nearly enough attention either to the protestors or to the reporters and cameramen working so bravely to tell their stories.

IPI: … I'm recording this on Skype so I just need to work out some technical issues…okay it's working….

H.A.: By the way, Skype was cancelled in Yemen a couple months back. The journalists are not able to use it. […] There were some […] media interviews through Skype in early February so the government stopped that. You cannot connect into Skype from Yemen.

IPI: What about other communications websites?

H.A.: No, no, since then nothing, I'll be honest with you. The only way media can communicate with Yemeni journalists is through phone calls. And sometimes phone calls are censored, number one, and number two, companies have been closed down. SabaFon, a communications company in Yemen that was run by the opposition, was closed down by the government; they are trying to limit all the access to Yemen and it's one of the reasons that access has been limited for the last nine months.

IPI: Have there been power outages or other communications cuts?

H.A.: It's a different world. In Yemen right now, and for the last four months, there's only been one hour of electricity a day. That's one reason why there are no networks and connections – if you don't have electricity you can't have connections or Internet access. What's also happening is that those who had generators and had no problem with electricity cuts, they used to buy diesel or gasoline, but months later, the government also cut diesel and gasoline services in Yemen by over 80% and that's made it […] even more difficult to communicate.

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Click here to read the full interview with Hakim Almasmari


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