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Abdel Ilah Taqi

Gun-wielding Houthis silence Yemen's scribes

Journalists live in fear since the Houthis captured the Yemeni capital last year [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 25 April, 2015

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Feature: Since the Houthis captured Yemen's capital in September, gunmen have closed down critical newspapers and intimidated journalists.
Yemeni journalist Wahid Haidar was reportedly kidnapped by unidentified gunmen over a week ago, and his fate remains unknown.

Haidar's family did not make any allegations about who might have been responsible for the kidnapping, but they did appeal to the authorities to ensure his swift and safe recovery.

If anything happens to the journalist, they will hold the security services responsible, they said.

Free speech on hold

Fahmi al-Izzi, a relative who witnessed Haidar's abduction, said that two gunmen in civilian clothing escorted the Yemeni journalist out of the post office building, in Sanaa's al-Tahrir Square, and bundled him into a car.

Haidar was in the post office to pay the telephone bill for his newly established weekly newspaper, Alarabiya, when he was abducted. The kidnappers appear to have confused the name with the TV news channel, al-Arabiya.

One of the kidnappers approached Haidar, as he was at the counter processing his payment and asked him if worked at the Saudi Arabian satellite news channel.

Riyadh is at war with the Houthi rebels and its aerial bombardment of Yemen has resulted in hundreds of civilians being killed.

Haidar attempted to clear up the confusion, but the gunmen forced him into a vehicle, which, Izzi said, did not carry a number plate.

His family did not report the crime immediately, believing that the kidnappers would soon release him - and fearing the consequences of official intervention.

The incident came at a time when attacks against journalists in Yemen have been on the rise.
     Freedom of the press is under attack, and journalists say that repression is at an unprecedented level.

Bullying and intimidation

The Yemeni journalists' syndicate has expressed its concern about the safety of journalists the country, and the growing number of cases of harassment and intimidation against them.

This has prevented them from carrying out their duties properly and has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Freedom of the press is under attack, and journalists say that repression is at an unprecedented level since the Houthi militias took over the capital, Sanaa.

Houthi gunmen continue to occupy the offices of Yemeni satellite television channels that oppose the group, including Suhail, Yemen Shabab, and Maeen.

The militia took over the offices of al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, when the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen began. Staff continue to report harassment by gunmen.

One of Yemen's main daily newspapers, al-Masdar, is also under Houthi occupation.

Journalists have been prevented from printing any issues of the daily or update its website since the takeover.

Houthi militants also reportedly stormed and looted the offices of anti-Houthi media outlet al-Shomoua, as well as the Akhbar al-Yawm daily newspaper.

Yemen's ministry of information is also under the control of the Houthis and loyalists of the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

They have blocked 35 online news websites through the government-owned Yemen Net service provider.

SMS news updates supplied by eight local news agencies have also been blocked, leaving millions of Yemenis in the dark about what is happening to their country.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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