Yemen bars MP from prison visit with editor Bashraheel as media crack-down continues
The siege of al Ayyam newspaper and the arrest of its editors in Aden is heightening tensions, especially in the volatile south of Yemen.
On Thursday, Yemeni authorities prevented an opposition politician from seeing Hasham Bashraheel, the editor of al Ayyam newspaper, held without charge in an Aden jail.
Dr. Aidroos Nasr al Naqeeb, head of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party’s (YSP) Parliamentary block was denied access to the Criminal Investigative Division’s prison in Khormaksar, Aden.
Mr. Bashraheel, 66, was taken into custody January 6 after police strafed a peaceful demonstration at the paper with machine guns, Reporters Sans Frontiers reported.
Yemeni authorities are engaged in a relentless campaign of intimidation and violence against Yemen’s journalists. Other political prisoners include journalists Saleh Al Sagaide, Fuad Rashid and Ahemd Al Zubairi. Papers that report on the growing civil unrest in Yemen are targeted by both the police and the judiciary. Dozens of news websites are blocked in Yemen.
Expressing his indignation, Dr. Aidroos Naqeeb noted that imprisoned “thieves, criminals and smugglers” are allowed visits but not a news editor.
“A member of the House of Representatives is supposed to visit prisons to determine the well being of individuals but also to exercise an oversight role on the extent of compliance with regulations and laws in force in the country,” Naqeeb said. The UN found that torture in Yemeni prisons is widespread.
In August, editor of the YSP’s website Mohammed al Maqaleh “disappeared” after reporting on a military airstrike that killed 87 civilians in the northern Sa’ada province. Editor of al Sahwa Newspaper, Mohammed Alwani reported receiving death threats on Friday.
Al-Ayyam, South Yemen’s leading independent newspaper, was established in 1958 and banned in May 2009. Civil rights groups hold weekly protests in the capital, Sana’a. Large demonstrations throughout South Yemen supporting the paper were met with live fire and arrests.
On January 4, security forces attacked hundreds protesting in front of the paper. At 2 am January 5, authorities began a siege of the compound that also contains residences. Mr. Bashraheel and two of his sons, Hani and Mohammed, surrendered along with thirty others in the compound. Several were injured and there was one fatality. Police arrested 23 mourners including the dead man’s father on January 11.
The YSP ruled South Yemen until its 1990 unification with North Yemen. After Yemen’s civil war in 1994, the country’s democratic foundations were subverted by constitutional amendments that centralized power in the executive.
Post war reconciliation was thwarted by the military subjugation of the south and by the rampant corruption of the northern oligarchy. Since 2007, southern Yemen witnessed large popular protests..
Human Rights Watch determined security forces repeatedly used lethal force against the unarmed demonstrators. Authorities arbitrarily arrested thousands of people for exercising their right to peaceful assembly, suspended independent media critical of government policies, and detained journalists and writers on spurious charges, the rights group said in a report entitled “In the Name of Unity.”
Government violence invariably triggered more protests. With little efforts by the central government to address institutionalized discrimination, protesters positions hardened. Today, there are widespread calls for the secession of the south.