Yemen: Journalist Hala Fouad Badawi imprisoned and two other journalists face trial
Several journalists in Yemen have been put on trial and imprisoned in violation of their rights to freedom of expression, warns the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). Following her arrest on 30 December 2021, the security authorities transferred journalist Hala Fouad Badawi from the Military Intelligence prison to the central prison in Mukalla, the capital of Hadhramaut Governorate, on 04 January 2022.
Her transfer came after her family organised a solidarity sit-in on the morning of 03 January 2022, in which dozens of journalists, lawyers, civil society activists and citizens of different segments of society participated. The protesters issued a statement saying: "We appeal to all people of conscience, and we single out the Attorney General and the Minister of Interior to intervene urgently to release this media freedom activist, and to resort to the rule of law."
On 30 December 2021, Badawi published news of her arrest on her Facebook page, which she uses to talk about corruption in her governorate, as well as the daily affairs of citizens, while defending their rights. She said she was being arrested by a security force affiliated with the Military Intelligence Department in Mukalla. They then confiscated her mobile phone and handbag before taking her to the Military Intelligence prison. The local authorities in Hadhramaut Governorate operate under the authority of the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who resides in Saudi Arabia.
On 23 December 2021, Badawi wrote in a Facebook post: "The people are hungry! Our fortunes are being plundered!"
On 27 December 2021, under the title "Commercial Institute and Ministerial Patchwork", she wrote another post in which she talked about corruption in this Institute, and stated: "I hope the administration of the Institute will clarify the extent of corruption of some, where they have arrived, and who helps them, and what is the tax of their silence?!"
A day before her arrest, she also published a post in which she talked about a telephone call with one of her close colleagues, who asked her to avoid talking about the alleged corruption surrounding the work of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education and the director of the Ministry of Education’s office in Hadhramaut Governorate.
On 03 January 2022, press reports quoted a statement issued by a security source and broadcasted by Al-Mukalla Radio, with the allegations against Badawi that, "Through examining her phone, compelling and firm evidence was found, confirming her involvement in working in one of the terrorist cells." They did not provide any details of what such evidence may be.
Late on the night of 05 January 2022, a security force stormed Badawi’s house and searched it without presenting any official order to search the house. The intrusive force forcibly confined family members in one of the rooms and searched the house alone, which raises doubts about the purpose of the entire operation.
The local authorities in Hadhramaut Governorate are adopting repressive policies in their dealings with journalists and targeting them while they are carrying out their professional work to convey the facts to Yemen’s citizens. In December 2021, the authorities in Hadhramaut Governorate referred journalists Sabri bin Makhashin and Awad Kashmim to trial in absentia, the first hearing of which is expected to be in February. They are being targeted solely for their writings on serious violations committed by the authorities in the governorate.
GCHR calls on local authorities in Hadhramaut Governorate to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release journalist Hala Fouad Badawi, and drop all charges against her that violate her freedom of expression, in addition to freedom of the press;
- Refrain from arresting journalists, and drop the charges against journalists Sabri bin Makhashin and Awad Kashim, who are awaiting trial; and
- Respect the right to freedom of expression and allow journalists to carry out their work free from intimidation and arrest.