Press Freedom

His Excellency President Ali Abdullah Saleh

President of the Republic of Yemen

Sana'a, Republic of Yemen

22 January 2010

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at the jailing of two journalists by a Special Court.

According to reports, on 17 January Moaz Al-Ashihabi, a journalist for the Al Thaqafieh newspaper, was sentenced to one year in jail by a Special Court for journalists for writing an article that "infringes on the Islamic faith". He has also been banned from writing for one year. This followed the sentencing to three months in jail of Anisa Othman, a journalist for the weekly Al-Wasat, on 16 January for writing an article deemed offensive to you. She was also banned from practising journalism for one year.

The authorities have been waging a campaign of intimidation against the press since May 2009 when eight newspapers were banned and the Special Court was set up. In recent months, several more newspapers have been banned, at least two other journalists have been detained, police have laid siege to Al-Ayyam newspaper and one journalist has disappeared.

We respectfully remind you that imprisoning journalists for carrying out their professional duties constitutes a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers."

We respectfully call on you to ensure that all journalists in detention are released immediately and that your government stops its campaign to suppress critical media. We also urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of free expression.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly                                                              


World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Xavier Vidal-Folch


World Editors Forum