The Use of Judiciary to Oppress and Torture Journalists in Yemen

Sheba Intelligence | 2024-05-29 11:44 AM UTC


The Specialized Criminal Court in Aden in South Yemen issued on Tuesday a ruling to imprison journalist Ahmed Maher for four years, a move pointing to the continued repression and abuse against journalists and activists in Yemen.

Governing Aden since 2019, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) has oppressed critics, including civil society organizations and independent media organizations.

The STC detained journalist Maher in 2022, accusing him of engaging in actions that harm state security. Though Maher confessed in a video his cooperation with terror groups, his family and media activists say such a confession was obtained under duress.

On Tuesday, the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate condemned the “unjust” sentence of imprisonment of journalist Ahmed Maher for four years. The Syndicate said in a statement that the ruling came after a series of grave violations, including torturing him, forcing him to record a video under duress, and detaining him for a long period without a fair trial.

The Syndicate called for the cancellation of the ruling, the release of “Maher,” and the provision of legal guarantees for a fair trial.

According to the American Center for Justice, the judiciary in Yemen has become a tool for political revenge and the suppression of press freedoms. The Center called for the speedy release of journalist Maher.

A statement by the American Center for Justice said, “Such rulings reflect the level of serious decline in the practice of journalistic work and freedom of opinion and expression in areas under the control of the Southern Transitional Council.”

It added, “The prison sentence against journalist Maher unequivocally shows that the judiciary has become a tool for political revenge and the suppression of freedoms.”

Journalism in Yemen has been a dangerous job since the war started in 2015. There is no province where Yemeni journalists feel safe while performing their jobs.

In Houthi-controlled Sanaa early this month, the secretary general of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, Mohammed Shubaita, survived an assassination attempt while a relative of his was killed as they were on their vehicle.

Throughout 2023, 54 violations against media freedoms were documented in several Yemeni provinces. The violations included detention, arrest, enforced disappearance, and interrogation and trial of journalists.

Forty-nine media people have been killed in Yemen since the fighting erupted between the internationally recognized Yemeni government and the Houthi group in 2015, according to the YJS. One hundred sixty-five press platforms stopped working, and 200 local and Arab news websites have been blocked over the past nine years.