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2019 Press Freedom Report in Yemen

103 cases of press freedom violations recorded by WJWC in 2019, including killings, assaults, kidnappings, and threats

In 2019, Yemen's journalists faced more than just ink stains and writer's cramp. They were subjected to a barrage of attacks and violations, leaving them vulnerable to physical assault, intimidation, and worse. Despite the risks, these journalists remained committed to telling the stories that needed to be told, shedding light on the dark corners of Yemen's conflict-ridden landscape. 

The Women Journalists Without Chains report documents a range of violations and abuses, including murder, torture, abduction, censorship, and denial of medical care. Journalists and media outlets remained targets for both sides of the conflict, with acts of retaliation such as physical attacks, kidnapping, and torture being common. The situation highlights the urgent need to protect journalists and media workers and ensure they can continue to report the truth without fear of reprisal.

The organization warns that the dangers faced by journalists have significantly increased, with many now living in a constant state of fear for themselves and their families. Sadly, 18 kidnapped journalists are still enduring dire conditions due to arbitrary detention and cruel, inhumane treatment. They are being physically and psychologically tortured and denied medical treatment, putting their lives at risk. Additionally, the Houthi group has brought ten journalists who were kidnapped five years ago to trial before the Specialized Criminal Court on baseless and fabricated charges.

The violations against journalists in 2019 were diverse, as reported by Women Journalists Without Chains. Kidnapping, arrest, detention, and suspension accounted for 26% of the total violations, while summons and trials made up 26%. The percentage of torture cases was 12%, while threats, incitement, and defamation were at 12% as well. Additionally, the closure and storming of media institutions' headquarters and journalists' homes, as well as the confiscation of newspapers, accounted for 7% of the violations. The number of injuries was 6%, and there were 5 cases of assault. The percentage of murder cases was 3%, while there were 2 cases each of bombing and burglary of journalists' homes, prevention from practicing the profession, and travel. Denial of treatment and blocking of websites each accounted for 1% of the violations.

The Houthi group was responsible for the highest number of violations, with 47 cases documented, making up 45% of the total violations. Forces loyal to the legitimate government committed 31 violations, accounting for 30% of the total number of violations. The militias of the security belt forces in Aden, Lahj, Abyan, and the Shabwaniyah elite were responsible for 10 violations, accounting for 10%. Unidentified armed men committed 9 violations, making up 9% of the total number of violations. The Arab Coalition Forces committed 4 violations, or 4% of the total number of violations. Additionally, Al-Qaeda and the Republic Guards each committed one violation, accounting for 1% each.

Women Journalists Without Chains stresses the need to end the phenomenon of impunity for crimes committed against journalists and media workers. The organization demands the formation of a fact-finding committee to investigate all violations committed against journalists. They also call for the results of the investigation to be made public and for those responsible for the violations to be brought to trial and receive appropriate punishment as these crimes do not have a statute of limitations.

The Executive Director of Women Journalists Without Chains, Bushra Al-Surabi, emphasizes the importance of protecting journalists and media professionals who cover armed conflicts from all forms of targeting and attack, in accordance with international humanitarian law. She highlights that civilian journalists should be granted the same protection as civilians, as long as they do not engage directly in hostilities. The organization's aim is to raise awareness among the public and organizations that advocate for freedom of expression and press freedoms. Additionally, Women Journalists Without Chains is calling on these groups to take measures to safeguard journalists and provide them with support through advocacy, mobilization, and solidarity efforts.

Finally, in a world where freedom of speech and expression are fundamental human rights, the situation in Yemen is alarming. The continued violations against journalists and media workers highlight the need for robust protection mechanisms to ensure their safety and wellbeing. While the power of words may be limitless, it is essential to remember that the people behind them are still human beings who deserve the right to work without fear of persecution. The fight for press freedom in Yemen must continue, and we must stand in solidarity with those who risk everything to keep the public informed and hold those in power accountable.

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