Houthi rebels seize pro-Saleh channel, hold journalists hostage
The employees of Yemen al-Youm TV – a channel affiliated to the General People’s Congress, the party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh – were forced to surrender their equipment and access codes after Houthi forces stormed the building on December 2 and seized control of all broadcasting.
“We condemn the violent actions towards journalists by the Houthis, which constitute serious violations of the Geneva Conventions," said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.
“This hostage-taking is typical of the climate of hostility in Yemen towards journalists, who are often targeted in this conflict. We call on the Houthi rebels to immediately release the TV channel's journalists and employees, as well as the 11 other media professionals and workers they are currently holding in their prisons."
The journalists have been denied contact with the outside world and little is known on their condition.
RSF said the Houthis broadcast their own content, including a speech by leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi, before the channel went off air.
Meanwhile, news websites loyal to the GPC have also been blocked since the killing of Saleh earlier this week.
In late August, Human Rights Watch said it documented 66 cases of arbitrary arrest by the rebels, who control Sanaa and other parts of northern Yemen, including journalists, activists and opposition members, although it is suspected that more arrests have been since the death of Saleh.
The Houthis, who have now disassociated from forces loyal to the former president, are fighting government forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab military coalition.
More than 10,000 people – over half of them civilians – have been killed since the coalition intervened in 2015.
The fighting has caused a humanitarian catastrophe which the UN says is the world's worst, pushing seven million people to the brink of famine and sparking a cholera outbreak that the World Health Organisation says has killed 2,000 people.