On World Press Freedom Day
Maat Reminds of the Continuous Houthi Militia's Violations against Journalists
Okeil: World Press Freedom Day is a good opportunity to remind the international community of the Houthi militia's violations against journalists in Yemen
Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights issued a new report entitled "Handcuffed: Journalists' Status in the Regions under the Houthis Control in Yemen" on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated on the 3rd of May every year. 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day, adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO, which calls for ensuring a free, independent and pluralistic press. This report reminds the international community of the continuous violations committed by the Houthi militia in Yemen against journalists, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, torture, and pushing journalists to practice self-censorship while carrying out their peaceful work.
Maat revealed that the number of journalists killed in Yemen during a year and a half exceeds the number of journalists died while covering the 4-year-long World War I. Maat blamed the Houthi militia gunmen and held them accountable for the killing of journalists, having documented the testimonies of the relatives of the journalists who died in more than one assassination, the last of which was the journalist Rasha Al-Harazi.
Maat also drew attention to the fact that the Houthi militia is still arbitrarily detaining and forcibly hiding three journalists and four bloggers in northern Yemen, in blatant contradiction of international human rights law, especially Article 19 of the UDHR and the same article in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Houthi practices also contradict international humanitarian law, especially the common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which considers journalists among the protected groups and prohibits targeting them as well as Article 79 of Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The safety of journalists also intersects with the principles and provisions of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and undermines Target 16. 10 of Sustainable Development Goals.
Maat urges the international community to put pressure on the Houthi militia to unconditionally release the journalists who are still detained in the prisons of the Houthi militia, as well as to consider forming a committee to compensate journalists who were tortured in the Houthi prisons, and to cancel all criminal provisions that allow the prosecution of bloggers and content writers in areas under the Houthi control.
In this context, Ayman Okeil, an international human rights expert and President of Maat, said that the World Press Freedom Day is a great opportunity to remind the international community of the violations carried out by the Houthi militia against journalists in Yemen. Okeil added that the continuation of impunity and the failure to bring the perpetrators of the Houthi militia to justice will help make these violations a recurring pattern, which would eventually undermine the freedom of the press and prompt more journalists to self-censor their work for fear of reprisals and acts of intimidation. In the end, Okeil called on the UN envoy to Yemen to pressure the Houthis to compensate the recently released journalists, especially after the testimonies they gave stating that they were subjected to torture and degrading treatment in the prisons of the Houthi militia.