Yemeni callto expel al-Jazeera

A Yemeni politician has demanded the closure of al-Jazeera’s office in Sana’a, accusing the TV channel of damaging the country’s security and stability, the Yemen Post reports.

Ali Jusaed al-Lahbi, a member of parliament for the ruling General People Congress, said: “It runs stories which Yemen's enemies completely exploit, especially the secessionists who aim to deform Yemen's image abroad.''

The paper adds that two al-Jazeera correspondents, Murad Hashim and Ahmad al-Shalafi, have received threats warning them to stop covering events in southern Yemen.

Meanwhile, the Yemen Times reports on the opening of the new court set up specially to try journalists. About 150 press-related cases are pending and the first to be heard is that of Sami Ghalib, editor-in-chief of al-Nida newspaper. He has been under investigation for a couple of years after publishing a story about corruption in the ministry of endowments.

The court has been condemned by journalists, lawyers and human right activists as an illegal attempt by the government to control the independent press. However, Mr Ghalib – its first defendant – told the Yemen Times that in different circumstances it might be regarded as a step forward, allowing journalists to be tried as journalists and not “like criminals” in the normal courts.

On the other hand, Tawakkol Karman, head of Women Journalists Without Chains, said the new press court resembles the government's special court for terrorism – in effect dealing with journalism like terrorism. "The charges are even the same: 'threatening the country's security and stability’," she said.

Other developments in Yemen:

1. Six militants were sentenced to death and 10 others jailed after being convicted for 13 armed attacks over the past two years. (This has been widely reported elsewhere so I won’t expand on it here.)

2. Demonstrators continue to block the Aden-Sana’a road at al-Dhali’. This has been going on for four weeks now, the 
Yemen Times says. A picture shows the old southern flag brandished during a protest in the south last week. “Many Yemenis from the north have been aggressed while driving along the main road between Sana’a and Aden,” the paper says. For supporters of the Southern Movement, “a northern accent has become enough to justify aggression”.

3. Twenty Chinese “health clubs” (suspected brothels) in the Hadda district of Sana’a have been shut down by the local authorities. Chinese restaurants serving alcohol but not food (some reportedly have no kitchens) are next on the list for closure. “We approve this step by the local council particularly when the Chinese authorities closed down mosques in China of Uighur Muslims,” Ahmad Aqlan, a Yemeni citizen, is quoted as saying.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 14 July 2009