Forwarded Alert: Yemen – Authorities urged to think twice after freelance journalist given six-year sentence

Reporters Without Borders

Yemen 10/06/2008

Authorities urged to think twice after freelance journalist given six-year sentence.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the six-year prison sentence which a state security court in Sanaa passed yesterday on freelance journalist Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani on a charge of “collaborating with the rebellion.” He was taken away to prison immediately after the court pronounced sentence.

“Khaiwani has yet again paid for his commitment to covering the fighting in the north of the country,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The press has become a convenient scapegoat, as is often the case when the political climate in a country deteriorates. This sentence is unacceptable and will serve as a warning to all those who criticise the government in the media. We appeal to the authorities to act with lucidity and release Khaiwani at once.”

A former editor of the newspaper Al-Shoura and contributor to several independent news media, Khaiwani was convicted of passing information to Shiite rebels in northern Yemen. Fourteen other persons were on trial with him.

He was arrested in June 2007 and held for several months in pre-trial custody until he was released provisionally on health grounds. His continuing health problems did not deter the authorities from detaining him as soon as his sentence has been announced yesterday. He was previously sentenced to a year in prison on similar charges in March 2005 but was given a presidential pardon the day after his conviction.

He is short-listed for the 2008 Amnesty International “Special Award For Human Rights Journalism Under Threat” and had been due to travel to London for the award ceremony on 17 June.

Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.

© Reporters Without Borders 2008