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Media world mourns Yemeni journalist who died from Houthi prison torture

Anwar al-Rakan before and after is year-long detention [Twitter]

Date of publication: 19 June, 2018

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Press freedom watchdogs have decried the death of Yemeni journalist Anwar al-Rakan, who was subject to torture and starvation at the hands of the Houthis
The death of Yemeni reporter Anwar al-Rakan on 2 June, days after being released from detention by the Houthi rebels, has been slammed by press freedom groups around the world.

Rakan's health severely deteriorated during his almost year-long detention at the hands of the Houthis. Images of the reporter on his release show him emaciated and haggard after suffering starvation and torture, and being withheld medication for illnesses he suffered, according to the Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate.

According to Rakan's brother, he was abducted almost a year ago after Houthi authorities found his syndicate membership card on him at a checkpoint as he drove from his hometown to the Houthi-controlled capital of Sanaa.

Rakan had previously worked for the government-run newspaper al-Gomhouria, according to reports in the Yemeni media.

Read more: Journalism: The fatal job in Yemen

Rakan's family were not told about his detention until the Houthis notified them he was being transferred to hospital, which in part explains why no action was taken on his case, according to Reporters without Borders (RWB).

RWB adds that at least ten other journalists are being detained arbitrarily by the Houthis, although the number is likely much higher as the rebels keep the identities of those imprisoned a secret.

RWB calls for all warring factions in Yemen including the Houthis, al-Qaeda and the Arab coalition to end the war on journalists, release those incarcerated and stop practices of intimidation, torture and abduction of those who criticise them.
Even by the standards of Yemen's civil war the year-long torture and deprivation suffered by journalist Anwar al-Rakan marks a new low

Sophie Anmuth, the head of RSF's Middle East desk, said: "Nothing can justify the arbitrary arrest and torture that many journalists suffer," adding that, "the Houthis left Anwar al-Rakan to perish during his detention, without giving him the medical care that he needed or notifying his family."

"Even by the standards of Yemen's civil war the year-long torture and deprivation suffered by journalist Anwar al-Rakan marks a new low," said Sherif Mansour, the Committee to Protect Journalists' Middle East and North Africa Programme Coordinator.

"We call on the Houthis to stop targeting the press and to release the 11 journalists reported to be in their custody. The Houthis ultimately must be held accountable for the treatment of journalists in the areas they control," he added.

Read more: Behind the lens as a woman: Yemen's female photographers strive to overcome barriers

"We utterly condemn the barbaric treatment our brother Anwar was subjected to," said the International Federation of Journalists' General Secretary Anthony Bellanger.

"The war between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition results in increased violations of journalists' rights. These systematic attacks against the press and journalists must stop immediately."

Yemen, overwhelmed by one of the worst humanitarian crises in history, ranks 167th out of 180 countries on the 2018 World Press Freedom Report.

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