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August 25, 2005

Comments

Stacey

I'm actually pretty (happily) surprised by how this is playing out. In addition to the journalists' march, and the coverage of the kidnapping in almost every paper in Sana'a, Al-Wasat (Amer's paper) ran a back-page piece in which they printed 1-2 paragraph comments from a BROAD range of public intellectuals, ranging from Islamist MPs, to Sana'a University profs, to the directors of a number of prominent NGOs. These guys have not minced their words, and have gone so far as to call the president personally responsible, by name.

This may not seem like much to some, but for people in Yemen (or Egypt, or Syria, or...) naming names is a big deal. Further, the big tent of condemnation will make it much harder for the government to sustain claims that this is US meddling.

It's worth noting, though, that just a few months ago, it was Amer who ran the interview with Badr el-Din al-Houthi (father of Hussein al-Houthi), an interview which the Houthi family asked him not to run (he told me that Hussein's brother called in a panic and asked him not to run it, but that he felt the need to put the truth out there...). In the interview, the elder Houthi made statements that were tantamount to a threat against the state, and the army reentered Saada little more than a week after it's publication.

I'm with you, Abu, in applauding his courage in the face of this attack on himself and threat against his family. But I raise this to point out that Amer's not an unproblematic hero here - there's good reason to think maybe he shouldn't have run the interview in March and it may have fed the growing sectarian tensions in Yemen. In a way, this makes him a perfect test case for journalistic freedom, since people from all sectors of Yemeni society are coming out in support of him, irrespective of this history.

Stacey

Just read that an-Nida's archives and layout computer were stolen by Yemeni security officers from the paper's office. an-Nida' is an independent paper that's only been around for 23 weeks, started by a group of excellent journalists from a bunch of different parties - it's basically an end-run around the Journalists' Synidcate, since most of the syndicate leadership is writing for the paper now. Amnesty is calling for the protection of Sami Ghalib, the editor.

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