CIVICUS Monitor speaks to award-winning Yemeni WHRD

As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, the chairperson for human rights at Mwatana Organization was named Defender of Human Rights and Freedom of Speech in October 2017. Radhya Al-Mutawakel is an internationally-recognised woman human rights defender (WHRD), honoured for her and her organisation's work to document human rights abuses in the face of escalating risks and grave danger in Yemen. To find out more about her work, the CIVICUS Monitor recently spoke to the WHRD to learn more about the issues and challenges facing civic and human rights groups in Yemen. A video of an interview with Al-Mutawakel can be seen below:

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On 15th January 2018, Yemeni political analyst, rights activist and blogger Hisham Al-Omeisy was finally released after being held for five months, according to CIVICUS Monitor research partner the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). As previously reported, Al-Omeisy was arrested on 14th August 2017 and held incommunicado by Houthi forces. According to a local journalist, Al-Omeisy was detained for exchanging emails in English with U.S.-based organisations but was not charged with any crime.

On 9th January 2018, Al Jazeera’s Taiz office was forced to close in Yemen. Soldiers acting on orders from the Taiz Governorate Security Committee reportedly arrived at the office in Taiz and demanded its closure, according to Saeed Thabit Saeed, director of Al Jazeera in Yemen. The Taiz Security Committee stated that the closure was a result of the media outlet's “alleged attempts to create divisions between ‘legitimate authorities." A spokesperson for Al Jazeera Network commented on the situation: 

"The Network calls on the authorities in the city of Taiz to reverse its decision and allow Al Jazeera's journalists to carry out their professional responsibilities duties without any hindrance or intimidation".

This is not the first time Al Jazeera has been targeted. In 2016, three journalists working for the media outlet were kidnapped in Taiz by unknown persons. 

On 2nd December 2017, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported the storming of television channel Yemen Today by gunmen from the Ansar Allah movement and the detention of the channel's employees. The TV channel is reportedly linked to the People's Congress Party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was assassinated on 4th December 2017. Three people were injured in the storming of the building and 41 people were arrested, then later released on 13th December 2017. 

In early December 2017, residents of cities in Yemen reported that they were unable to access social media sites, and that internet connectivity was very slow, according to the GCHR. Residents in the capital Sanaa and other cities, including Hajja and Amran, were blocked from accessing social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Social Media Exchange reported that the internet was fully shut down for 30 minutes on 7th December, and that the Houthis were also throttling, or intentionally slowing down, connectivity across the country, in addition to blocking social media access.