FDHRD Issues Report on Houthi Crimes & Violations against Yemeni Journalists

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On Monday, November 22, 2021, the Research and Studies Unit of the Forum for Development and Human Rights Dialogue issued a report titled: “Yemeni Journalists under Houthi control.”

The report confirmed that the Houthis are preventing journalists from doing their job in order to conceal the facts of their ongoing crimes against unarmed Yemeni citizens, or to cover up their human rights violations. This is a clear violation of the rules of international humanitarian law and the four Geneva Conventions applied in international and non-international armed conflicts, and it is necessary to consider the media as protected civilian objects in accordance with the Hague Conventions for the Protection of Civil and Cultural Property during wars.

The report discussed a number of topics, the most important of which are:

First: International law and the protection of journalists in areas of armed conflict

The basis for journalists’ work and professionalism in areas of armed conflict is the transmission of new information and news under the principle of freedom of expression. Article (19) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as article (19) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulate that “every human being has the right to hold opinions without harassment, and every human being has a right to freedom of expression. This right includes his freedom to seek, receive and transfer various forms of information and ideas to others without regard to borders, whether in written, printed, art form or by any other means of his choice.”

2.  UN resolutions

The United Nations and some of its councils and bodies have some resolutions that provide some protection to journalists in areas of armed conflict, as the rules of international humanitarian law have not been followed and many violations against journalists have been observed in a particularly serious manner. In December 2013, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 163/68, followed by Resolution 185/69 in 2014 on the UN Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. Accordingly, some regional mechanisms were supported by the establishment of monitoring bodies to protect journalists, including the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information at the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples in Africa, and the Special Representative for Freedom of Information of the Organization for Security in Africa and cooperation in Europe.

The 2016 Universal Declaration for the Protection of Journalists affirmed that the right to life is guaranteed to all journalists, media professionals and associated individuals and is entitled to protection against any human rights violations or abuses, whether in the form of murder, torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, exile, intimidation, harassment, threats, any form or acts of violence, actual or legal negative discrimination against them or their relatives or any other arbitrary act. The exercise of these rights, such as arbitrary or illegal surveillance or interception of their communications, violates their right to privacy and freedom of expression.

The report stressed that it had not stopped at the United Nations General Assembly, and that the UN Security Council had previously condemned attacks against journalists, the media and associated individuals, and called in Resolution 1738 of 2006 and Resolution 2222 of 2015 to put an end to such practices in conflict situations, stating that such staff must be considered civilians and must be protected and respected.

3. NGOs

Some NGOs provide direct and indirect support to journalists in places of armed conflict in particular, and the report addressed that these include the International Committee of the Red Cross, Journalists Without Borders, CPJ and the International Federation of Journalists.

Second: the reality of Houthis’ encroachment on Yemeni journalists

The report said that the terrorist group Al-Houthi is pursuing repressive policies towards journalists and opposition media in Yemen, and the statements of Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the leader of the group in September 2014 after the coup d’état to kill any journalist who proves his loyalty to the government and violates the principles of Houthis, or warn the Ministry of Information headed by the Houthis that it will work against all the media that will work against its policies, only to confirm their awareness of the usefulness and credibility of the words written and sent to the world by journalists.

Yemeni journalists are harassed and restricted by the Houthis in their places of control, asking reporters in their areas not to move or carry out any journalistic work except with the prior approval of their ministry of information (i.e. the Houthis) and provided that journalists accompany a Houthi security agent to check the footage they will film. The report divided Houthi crimes against journalists into:

1-Murder – Assassination – Execution

The Houthi group’s aggressive behavior towards journalists in some cases has led to murder or assassination in accordance with the orders of Abdul Malik al-Houthi and the silencing journalists about the violations to which the Yemeni people are subjected from their oppression in the places they occupy. 2015, 2016, 2018 saw 30 journalists killed, an average of 10 journalists each year, by the Houthi militia. Yemen’s annual report on freedom of expression by the Yemeni Freedom Monitor said that in 2020, 13 journalists were killed, including four journalists sentenced to death by the Houthi group on fabricated charges and without a defense lawyer and have been subjected to torture and medical neglect since then.

In June 2020, journalist Nabil al-Qaiti was killed in front of his home in Aden, and on December 31 of the same year, journalist Adib al-Janani was killed in the Houthi attack, which targeted government members as they arrived at Aden airport with Ballistic missiles.

The Houthis are also using journalists as human shields against arab coalition air attacks, and on May 21, 2015, journalists Abdullah Metb, 25, and Youssef al-Ezeri, 26, were killed after they were kidnapped by Houthi militia and placed as human shields for Arab coalition aircraft in weapons depots in Dhamar.

2. Detention – arbitrary detention

If they are not doomed, hundreds of Yemeni journalists are being kidnapped, arbitrarily detained and tortured in Houthi prisons in Sana’a, and the aim is to end their detention either ransom money or negotiate prisoner exchange deals with the legitimate government, as the Houthi group released Ahmed al-Masri, who has been detained for more than three years in a prisoner exchange deal with the legitimate government.

According to the report, the Houthi group operates 203 prisons, including 78 of an official nature, 125 secret detainees, and the creation of private secret prisons in Badromat (basement) of government institutions, as is the case with the High Electoral Commission, to which the Houthis have transferred hundreds of abductees, and detains hundreds of civilians in four military positions. They have also turned some mosques, attractions and sports clubs into detention facilities where their political opponents, media professionals and human rights activists are being held.

3. Escape and displacement

The report addressed that the major challenges to Yemeni journalists in places controlled by the Houthis force them to flee their cities where they live, including those who can leave Yemen for fear of arrest, assassination or threats of exposure to family and friends.

4. Breaking into press and media headquarters and blocking news sites

Houthi militias are storming the work premises where journalists work and arresting them and abducting them to unknown places, and the incursion of the Houthi group was monitored in the first year of the coup for at least 14 headquarters of newspapers, satellite channels and local radios, which led to its closure and stop its journalistic and media activity.

On the other hand, party and independent newspapers, official and private channels and radio stations are forced to close and terminate their work on the orders of the Houthi Ministry of Information, block news sites and hundreds of press and media platforms, and the militias have closed some communication applications at various times. Online news publications have also been routinely closed or blocked by the Houthis in someareas.

Third: numbers and statistics for houthi violations freedom of the press in Yemen

From 2014 to last year, the Houthi group topped the list of perpetrators of violations against journalists in Yemen with 70 of the total cases recorded during the year (2020). During this period, 46 journalists were killed by them, and 20 kidnapped journalists are still missing.

The report also monitored houthi violations that have continued since the beginning of 2021, in January the Houthis committed 33 violations against journalists, and during the first half of this year, the Houthis committed 20 violations, and as of the third quarter the Houthis committed 13 violations during that period.

The report concluded only this year that the Houthis had committed nearly 50 violations, confirming their lack of respect for international conventions and conventions on international humanitarian law, and respect for dealing with journalists in areas of armed conflict.

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