Yemen’s political insecurity and instability remains a great challenge. Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi replaced Ali Abdullah Saleh as president in February 2012, and has eased controls on the media as part of a broader human rights reform. Yemenis have enjoyed their greater freedom of expression; however, this is also resulting in a rise in threats and violence against the media. It has been reported that Yemeni journalists are faced with harassment from government security forces and supporters of the former government; Huthi rebels, southern secessionists and religious conservatives. One leading unsolved case involves an outspoken Yemen journalist, Wagdy al-Shabi, who was murdered in his home. Other reported cases allege assaults and death threats from members of security and other groups. Freedom Foundation recorded 144 attacks and hostile acts against journalists, newspapers and other media outlets just in the first half of 2013. In 2012, a total of 260 separate incidents against journalists and media were reported. Numerous complaints continue to be reported to the authorities, yet little has been done and no one has been successfully prosecuted in any of the cases.
Acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch stated, “If the advances in free speech are to have a real and lasting impact on Yemeni society, the government should condemn and rigorously investigate all attacks on journalists and ensure those responsible are brought to justice.” He went on to say if President Hadi fails to address these attacks, it not only denies those attacked justice, but also makes the media as a whole afraid. This is the opposite effect Hadi wants with his human rights reform. The Prime Minister of Yemen is trying to address these occurrences of violent acts against journalists. He allowed a creation of a committee meeting, including representatives from Ministry of Human Rights, Ministries of Interior, the Foreign Affairs and the Legal Affairs, which was held on September 4th to investigate the situation more broadly and recommend changes to improve Yemen’s media freedom. This is a move in the right direction for the safety of Yemeni journalists; however there are those officials who feel the media is lacking professionalism and harms the country’s political transition. This rationale and lack of accountability is what is fueling these attacks. If not addressed, this will hinder progress of their freedom of expression and the violence against the media as a whole will continue.
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