Watchdog slams Yemen ouster of foreign journalists

14th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrest of four Western journalists in Yemen on Monday and what it termed the targeting of foreign media to curb coverage of anti-regime protests.

Officials in London, meanwhile, said two British freelance journalists were to be thrown out of Yemen after reporting from the strife-torn country.

Police detained two US and two British journalists based in Sanaa at their apartment in the Yemeni capital, said RSF, in an apparently separate incident on the same day.

Two of them, Joshua Maricich and Portia Walker, were deported to Ethiopia but the whereabouts of the other two, Haley Sweetland Edwards and Oliver Holmes, were not immediately known.

Sanaa authorities said they were arrested for "residing illegally in Yemen," according to RSF, although they had been living and working in the country for several years with the knowledge of the information ministry.

It said another US journalist, Patrick Symmes, and his Italian photographer, Marco Di Lauro, were deported on Saturday.

Britain's Foreign Office said two unidentified Britons, who Yemeni authorities said had entered the country on student visas but worked as freelance journalists, were being deported on Monday.

"The arrests and deportation of foreign journalists are a very worrying sign of nervousness on the part of the authorities," said RSF.

It said Yemeni authorities were "sending a clear signal to other journalists working for foreign media not to report the abusive treatment that demonstrators have been receiving from the security forces."

"This is a blatant act of censorship that must be strongly condemned. After targeting Yemeni journalists, the authorities now want to gag the foreign media and impose a news blackout on the events taking place in Yemen."

Yemen has been rocked by weeks of protests with demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power for 32 years, amid a wave of unrest spreading across the Arab world.

Some 40 people have been killed in political violence since unrest erupted in deeply tribal Yemen at the end of January.

© 2011 AFP

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