OPC "Indignant" at Treatment of Journalists in Yemen

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Yemen

Ali Abdallah Salih
President
Office of the President
Al-Qasr Street
Sana'a
Republic of Yemen

Your Excellency:

We are indignant at the treatment of foreign journalists in Yemen, from which in less than a week, at least six of our colleagues have been expelled for no reason other than that they might report a story official sources might not like.

Only yesterday, Yemeni security forces invaded the apartment of four reporters for U.S. publications. They include Oliver Holmes, who contributes to The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine; Haley Sweetland Edwards, a contributor to the Los Angeles Times; Joshua Maricish, a photographer; and Portia Walker, a contributor to The Washington Post. The four were removed from the apartment and brought before immigration authorities, who subsequently ordered them expelled for unspecified "national security reasons."

Holmes, a British citizen, told The New York Times, "I'm positive that this is related to the fact that all four of us have been reporting about the upswing of violence against protesters." He predicted that the expulsion of reporters is prelude to a crackdown on protesters in Sana'a that your government does not wish the world to see.

This past weekend, Patrick Symmes and Marco Di Lauro, both on assignment for Outside, were detained by security agents. Notwithstanding their press visas, they were put on a flight to Istanbul. Echoing Oliver Holmes, Symmes told the Committee to Protect Journalists that “it is obvious that we are being expelled simply to prevent the chance that we are in any way capable of learning what is happening in Sana'a.”

The mistreatment of foreign reporters is of a piece with the intimidation of local reporters in Yemen. We know that last Saturday, a group of more than a dozen people known to be government supporters, arrived at the Journalists Syndicate in Sana'a and threatened to burn it down, according to local journalists who were there and to an item posted on the syndicate's website.

In the 21st Century, Your Excellency, it is a fruitless thing to try and stop the flow of information. The world will know in time what takes place in Yemen. Tragically, the story of modern government, for which respect for free expression is a core principle, still waits to be written in Yemen.

Respectfully yours,
Kevin McDermott
Larry Martz
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

Haley Sweetland Edwards
haley.edwards@gmail.com

H.E Abdal al-Qadir Ba Jamal
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Sana'a
Republic of Yemen

H.E. Abdulwahab A. Al-Hajjri
Ambassador of Yemen to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
2319 Wyoming Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 337.2017

Ambassador Abdullah M. Alsaidi
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Yemen to the United Nations
413 East 51st Street
New York, NY 10022
Fax: (212) 750.9613

H.E. Gerald Feierstein
U.S. Ambassador to Yemen
Embassy of the United States of America
Sa'awan Street
Sana'a
Yemen
Fax: (011.967.1) 30.31.82

The News Editor
Yemen Observer
38 off Algiers Street
P.O. Box 19183
Sana'a
Yemen
Fax: (011.967.1) 20.72.39

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

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