The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Thursday for the immediate release of Waleed Al-Sufi, the Editor-in-Chief of weekly Yemeni newspaper Al-Arabiya, who was kidnapped by unknown assailants over a month ago.
Fahmy Al-Ezzi, who is Al-Sufi’s cousin, told CPJ that Al-Sufi was kidnapped while enroute to pay the newspaper’s phone bills. He was stopped by unidentified people and asked whether he worked for the Saudi Arabia-owned Al-Arabiya.
“Al-Sufi said he worked for the Yemeni news outlet Al-Arabiya, which has no relation to the Saudi channel,” CPJ’s statement read. It went on to say that “men put Al-Sufi in a white Land Cruiser with no licence plates and drove away”.
Al-Ezzi holds the the Houthi Shi’a rebel movement responsible for whatever happens to the journalist since “they claim to hold authority over the country”.
According to Al-Ezzi, Al-Sufi had been publishing reports on the Houthis and was out documenting bomb sites with his camera before he was kidnapped.
“We call on the Houthi movement to guarantee freedom of the press and the safety of all journalists in the territories they control,” said Jason Stern, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa research associate. “Whoever is holding Waleed Al-Sufi must release him immediately. All sides of the conflict in Yemen must remember that journalists are civilians and should not face reprisal while upholding their duty.”
Last month, four staff members of a Yemeni satellite TV station were killed by Saudi airstrikes while in their office. The Houthis also detained two more journalists.
According to CPJ, there has been a steady rise in the level of violence against journalists in Yemen after the start of Saudi Arabia’s “Operation Decisive Storm”.
The sharp decline of press freedom is because “every side in the conflict has targeted journalists whose coverage they found unflattering as part of their efforts to control the narrative coming out of the country”.
Saudi Arabia, backed by 10 countries including Egypt, launched an airstrike campaign against Yemen after the Houthi movement took control of Yemen from President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi in February.