al-Ashmori Speaks Out


More on the journalist attacked last week.

YEMEN: Saddam al-Ashmori, Yemen, “I get a panic attack whenever I walk in the street”

09 Oct 2007 12:19:26 GMT
Source: IRIN

SANAA, 9 October 2007 (IRIN) – The intimidation and harassment of journalists in Yemen is not uncommon, according to the US State Department. Saddam al-Ashmori, a 26-year-old Yemeni freelance journalist, was attacked earlier this month and now fears for his safety. He says the people who attacked him were not common criminals.

The Yemen Journalists’ Syndicate (YJS) told IRIN it has recorded 94 infringements of journalists’ rights since the beginning of 2007, including attacks, beatings, detention, threats and even murder.

“Early this month, I left my house in the morning to cover two functions in Sanaa, the capital. First, I covered a rally at Freedom Square in support of President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s recent constitutional reforms.

“Later, I returned to the same place to cover a peaceful sit-in organised by a number of civil society organisations in protest at the government’s treatment of retired soldiers in the southern provinces of Yemen. There were several other journalists covering the same event.

“I wanted to take a good photograph of the protesters and so I stood on a nearby wall and took some photos. Minutes later, a man in civilian clothes came and grabbed my hand. Another man took hold of my other hand and then a third man started kicking my stomach. I fell to the ground. The first man who grabbed my hand then hit me on the back. The other two helped him and they took turns kicking me. Soon seven other men surrounded us so that no one could see me being attacked. There was no one to help me although the place was swarming with uniformed policemen.

“I stood up and thought of trying to resist them. But one of them used his head to butt my forehead. There was a small sharp instrument attached to his headgear and this left me with a bloody face. They told me to give them my camera but I refused. Then one of them took out a small dagger and threatened to kill me. I gave them the camera and fled. These were not common criminals. They were not ordinary thieves and I am not the only journalist to have been attacked at Freedom Square.

“After the incident I started getting panic attacks whenever I walked in the street, heard a strange sound or saw a vehicle coming towards me. These days whenever I leave my house I tell some of my friends and ask them to check on me from time to time by phoning me on my mobile.

“Intimidation against independent journalists is more intense now because the government does not want us to report on its war with the rebels in Saada, in the north, or on the continuous protests against price hikes in Sanaa or on the mistreatment of retired soldiers in the south.

“There were times when I thought of quitting my job. But my colleagues have encouraged me to continue my work, and I also remember the ordeals of other Yemeni journalists – those who were killed, badly attacked or detained. I particularly remember one whose fingers were broken in an attempt to prevent him from writing. When I remember that I become emboldened to continue my work as a journalist.”


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