(NEW YORK)— In response to reports that government authorities in Yemen have detained journalist and commentator Jameel al-Samat, PEN America issued the following statement from Justin Shilad, research and advocacy lead for the Middle East and North Africa:

“Al-Samat’s detention is broadly indicative of the ongoing threats that Yemeni writers and commentators face. Years of conflict, disappearances and kidnappings have proved that freedom of expression in Yemen is under attack from all sides, and the failure of the international community to center human rights and free expression in resolving the conflict has heightened the risk. Authorities in Taiz should release Jameel al-Samat at once, and all relevant authorities in Yemen must stop attacks and detentions of those who peacefully express themselves.”

According to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, security forces in the city of Taiz arrested al-Samat on Tuesday, August 1, in response to his writings on social media that criticized the performance of government security forces in Taiz Governorate. The syndicate also reported that he had been arrested a month previously after a complaint from military leadership in the governorate.

In June, government authorities in the Yemeni city of Ma’rib issued arrest warrants against the editors of three news outlets and the bureau chiefs of two broadcast networks for their reporting on local corruption. Elsewhere in the country, journalists, writers, activists and others continue to be targeted by non-state actors. The Ansar Allah group, commonly known as the Houthis, freed four journalists earlier this year as part of a prisoner exchange after holding them since June 2015 and sentencing them to death in 2020, and the group continues to target social media users and others for their criticism of the group. The Southern Transitional Council, a group that controls Aden and other parts of Yemen’s south and advocating secession for territories under its control, has also detained journalists and other critics.

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Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057