Journalists in Yemen have been facing harsh treatment including killings, disappearances and death sentences, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet revealed on Thursday.
“It is with great sadness we have seen the situation in Yemen slide from bad to worse, to the point now where it is considered the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” Bachelet expressed in a press release. “Those responsible for reporting on the atrocities committed during the armed conflict and the accompanying pain and suffering endured by civilians are themselves being targeted.”
“Journalists are under attack from all quarters. They are killed, beaten and disappeared; they are harassed and threatened; and they are jailed and sentenced to death for merely trying to shine a light on the brutality of this crisis,” explained Bachelet.
The UN Human Rights Office disclosed that on 11 April the Specialised Criminal Court in Sana’a sentenced four journalists to death and six others to jail.
It confirmed that the journalists were charged with: “Publishing and writing news, statements, false and malicious rumors and propaganda with the intent to weaken the defence of the homeland, weaken the morale of the Yemeni people, sabotage public security, spread terror among people and harm the country’s interest.”
The UN Human Rights Office stated that: “Concerns are growing that the de facto authorities might carry out the death sentence against the four journalists, despite a pending appeal of the conviction before the Appellate Division of the Specialised Criminal Court.”
Since the start of the conflict in March 2015, the UN Human Rights Office has documented 357 human rights violations and abuses against journalists.
According to the office, there have been 28 killings, two enforced disappearances, one abduction, 45 physical assaults, 184 arbitrary arrests and detentions, 16 death or physical violence threats against journalists and 24 seizures of media organisations.
It also noted that there have been 26 closures of TV channels and newspaper companies, 27 attacks on media organisations and houses of journalists, and four death sentences imposed on journalists in violation of international human rights law.
Bachelet asserted: “The safety of journalists is essential to the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of us all, and in the context of armed conflict they play a vital role in uncovering the truth and holding the parties to the conflict to account publicly.”
“Journalists are also protected under international humanitarian law as civilians. Attacks against them may amount to war crimes, and those responsible for such crimes must be brought to justice.”