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Trial After Trial for Yemeni Journalist

The Committee to Protect Journalists have reported that Yemeni editor Mohamed al-Maqalih has had fresh charges brought against him for articles criticizing the government. The CPJ states that this is the latest of a series of allegations which “constitute a pattern of judicial harassment.”

Al-Maqalih, editor of Al-Eshteraki, the website of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party, was summoned by the country’s Press and Publications Court in response to an article written in 2005 which criticized President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s plans to seek re-election in 2006 despite promises made that he would not do so. Article 103 of Yemen’s Press and Publications Law prohibits journalists from criticizing the head of state and Hael Salem, al-Maqaleh’s lawyer, told the CPJ that his client could be facing up to two years in prison if convicted.

Al-Maqalih is also currently standing trial before a state security court. He has been accused of supporting Shi’ite Zaidi rebels, the minority insurgent group has been fighting against the Sunni government since 2004.

This news comes less than one month since AFP reported that Al-Maqalih was released from custody for “health and humanitarian reasons.” The journalist was abducted in September and was held incommunicado until January 31st when he was finally given permission to speak to his family. Al-Maqalih asserts that he was tortured during his confinement, however, his complaints have not been addressed in either of his trials.

Freedom House’s 2009 edition of Freedom of the Press, considers the press in Yemen to be “not free.” The report reveals that the country’s Ministry of Information influences most of the news in Yemen through strict licensing laws, control of printing presses and the ability to manipulate advertising subsidies. Additionally, the Yemeni parliament is currently considering a draft media law to replace Article 103 which has been described by the Union of Yemeni Journalists as “worse than the law currently in force.”

“What is happening in Yemen now is very serious…The international community must intercede as a matter of urgency,” Reporters Without Borders said.

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