Despite enjoying perhaps the freest press on the Arabian Peninsula, Yemeni journalists have noticed a narrowing of their freedoms in the last four years. Since the country's 1994 civil war, authorities have increased their harassment of independent journalists through the censorship of newspapers and the intimidation and harassment of reporters.
Journalists continued to face the threat of Political Security forces and other state agents who arrested and detained reporters as they attempted to carry out their work. Others complained of constant monitoring by security forces, creating an atmosphere of fear. Authorities resorted to censorship, most notably in July when a prosecutor banned coverage of a trail involving alleged bombing suspects in the southern town of Aden. And in late December, an edition of the weekly Al-Rai al-Aam was banned without explanation in apparent retaliation for its recent criticism of government officials.
The press law criminalizes journalism through such highly interpretative charges as the publication of "false information" or news that threatens "public order." In March, the Ministry of Information issued a decree imposing a series of financial regulations on newspapers, including capital requirements that range from 3 million rials (US$22,727) for daily papers to 700,000 rials (US$5,303) for weeklies. The new regulations also called for the annual renewal of newspaper licenses, which journalists say gives the Ministry of Information considerable discretion over publications. The moves were decried by journalists as an attack on press freedom. By year's end, the government had not enforced the regulations, but future enforcement could put newspapers out of business and hinder the emergence of new publications.
While the press remained robust in its reporting and commentary, the broadcast media--under state control--continued their uncritical support of the government. Radio and television are particularly influential in Yemen, because of the country's relatively high illiteracy rate. In a May interview with the Yemen Times, Minister of Information Abdel Rahman al-Akwa'a stated that the government was "formulating the legal bases to regulate" the licensing of private radio and television.
|Attacks on the Press in
Yemen in 1998
||Anwar al-Ansi, Al-Jazeerah TV
||Awad Kashmeem, Al-Tariq
||Mohammad Ben Mohammad Saleh al-Dakim
||Raggeh Omaar, BBC||Imprisoned, Legal Action|
||Robin Barnwell, BBC||Imprisoned, Legal Action|
||Frank Smith, BBC
||Imprisoned, Legal Action|
||Arafat Mudabish, Al-Thawri