Yemen president shuts down local TV channel over coverage of protest

Yemen President Abdu Rabo Mansour Hadi made a brazen move on June 11 when his forces stormed studio of al-Yemen al-Youm TV channel and confiscated all equipment, shutting down its  coverage.

Al-Yemen al-Youm, one of the most popular local TV channels owned by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been covering popular outrage over acute fuel, electricity and water shortage in the capital and across the country. The channel capitalized on the public outrage of Hadi government inability to deliver basic services to attract more supporters for the next race for presidency, in which Saleh’s party still maintains a considerable amount of loyalty in Yemen.

The state run daily al-Thawra ran a brief statement about the closedown.

“The channel was shutdown yesterday [June 11] after it had crossed all red lines, and become a destructive tool that opposes the will of the Yemeni people for change and building a modern civil state based on equality, justice, democracy and good governance,” said the statement published in the last page of Thursday issue, June 12, 2014. It also said the channel didn’t  have a license.

Al-Yemen al-Youm posted on its YouTube channel a six-minute footage showing Hadi’s presidential guards taking equipment and furniture from the channel studio.

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Update-2: Quick review of Yemen cabinet change

Update on affiliations of two of the nominees (Ahmed Ubaid alFadhli and Hussam alSharjabi) can be below in Bold.

President Abdu Rabu Mansoor Hadi made a change in his controversial government today after popular outrage over lack of basic services( including but not limited to fuel, electricity, water) have reached its peak in capital Sana’a.

Based on a press statement listing new members in the government, next to each appointee is a quick review (in brackets) of their political affiliation.

-Ahmed Ubaid Ben Daghr (PHD), Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Telecommunications and InformationTechnology (a leading member of General People Congress, GPC , former president Saleh’s party.Ben Daghr retains his post as minister of telecommunications & Technology. New post is deputy prime minister.)

-Abdullah Mohsen alAkwa, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Electricity.(An Islah member replacing an Islah nominee Saleh Sumay’a. Had no previous post in this government).

-Nasr Taha, Minister of Information. (An Islah affiliate replacing Islah nominee Alamrani. Taha was Executive Director of the Presidential Office).

-Ahmed AbdulQader Shayeh, Minister of Oil and Minerals. (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi. Shayeh replaced a recently GPC nominee Bahah).

-Mohammed Mansour Zemam, Minister of Finance. (A GPC affiliate, replacing an Islah nominee Sakhr al-Wajeeh).

Ahmed Awadh Bin Mubarak (PHD), Executive Director of the Presidential Office. (Close to Hadi, replacing Taha who was appointed minister of  Information).

Mansour Ali alButani (PHD), General Secretary of the Presidency. (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi).

-Dr Abu Bakr alQirbi, Member of the Shura Council. (A GPC member & former minister of foreign affairs. A Shura Council post is considered more of sacking than a new appointment.)

-Jamal al-Salal, Minister of Foreign Affairs. (A relative of first republican president upon 1962 coup. Not much of Salal is known but said to be a Hadi associate).

-Ahmed Ubaid alFadhli, Member of the Shura Council. (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi) Muhammed al-Basha, of the Yemen Embassy in Washington, said that alFadhli is a GPC member.

-Hussam al-Sharjabi, Vice Minister of Finance.  (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi). Atiaf Alwazeer, an active blogger who tweets at @WomanfromYemen , pointed that while it’s true that Husam al-Sharjabi is close to Hadi, but he can’t be described as a pro Hirak affiliate. Al-Sharjabi, as advised by both ‏@AbdulazizSaqqaf and @WomanfromYemen, is the head of @WatanParty.

-Fouad alHemyari, Vice Minister of Information. (An Islah member. Not much is known about al-Hemyari but He’s well known for his Friday’s preaches during 2011 uprising).

-Sakhr alWajeeh, Governor of Hodaidah. (An Islah nominee and former Finance minister.)

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Update-1: Quick review of Yemen cabinet change

- Update on affiliation on one of the nominee can be seen in about the tenth paragraph, highlighted in bold.

President Abdu Rabu Mansoor Hadi made a change in his controversial government today after popular outrage over lack of basic services( including but not limited to fuel, electricity, water) have reached its peak in capital Sana’a.

Based on a press statement listing new members in the government, next to each appointee is a quick review (in brackets) of their political affiliation.

-Ahmed Ubaid Ben Daghr (PHD), Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Telecommunications and InformationTechnology (a leading member of General People Congress, GPC , former president Saleh’s party.Ben Daghr retains his post as minister of telecommunications & Technology. New post is deputy prime minister.)

-Abdullah Mohsen alAkwa, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Electricity.(An Islah member replacing an Islah nominee Saleh Sumay’a. Had no previous post in this government).

-Nasr Taha, Minister of Information. (An Islah affiliate replacing Islah nominee Alamrani. Taha was Executive Director of the Presidential Office).

-Ahmed AbdulQader Shayeh, Minister of Oil and Minerals. (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi. Shayeh replaced a recently GPC nominee Bahah).

-Mohammed Mansour Zemam, Minister of Finance. (A GPC affiliate, replacing an Islah nominee Sakhr al-Wajeeh).

Ahmed Awadh Bin Mubarak (PHD), Executive Director of the Presidential Office. (Close to Hadi, replacing Taha who was appointed minister of  Information).

Mansour Ali alButani (PHD), General Secretary of the Presidency. (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi).

-Dr Abu Bakr alQirbi, Member of the Shura Council. (A GPC member & former minister of foreign affairs. A Shura Council post is considered more of sacking than a new appointment.)

-Jamal al-Salal, Minister of Foreign Affairs. (A relative of first republican president upon 1962 coup. Not much of Salal is known but said to be a Hadi associate).

-Ahmed Ubaid alFadhli, Member of the Shura Council. (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi)

-Hussam alSharjabi, Vice Minister of Finance.  (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi). Atiaf Alwazeer, an active blogger who tweets at @WomanfromYemen , pointed that while it’s true that Husam al-Sharjabi is close to Hadi, but he can’t be described as a pro Hirak affiliate.

-Fouad alHemyari, Vice Minister of Information. (An Islah member. Not much is known about al-Hemyari but He’s well known for his Friday’s preaches during 2011 uprising).

-Sakhr alWajeeh, Governor of Hodaidah. (An Islah nominee and former Finance minister.)

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Quick review of Yemen cabinet change

President Abdu Rabu Mansoor Hadi made a change in his controversial government today after popular outrage over lack of basic services( including but not limited to fuel, electricity, water) have reached its peak in capital Sana’a.

Based on a press statement listing new members in the government, next to each appointee is a quick review (in brackets) of their political affiliation.

-Ahmed Ubaid Ben Daghr (PHD), Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Telecommunications and InformationTechnology (a leading member of General People Congress, GPC , former president Saleh’s party.Ben Daghr retains his post as minister of telecommunications & Technology. New post is deputy prime minister.)

-Abdullah Mohsen alAkwa, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Electricity.(An Islah member replacing an Islah nominee Saleh Sumay’a. Had no previous post in this government).

-Nasr Taha, Minister of Information. (An Islah affiliate replacing Islah nominee Alamrani. Taha was Executive Director of the Presidential Office).

-Ahmed AbdulQader Shayeh, Minister of Oil and Minerals. (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi. Shayeh replaced a recently GPC nominee Bahah).

-Mohammed Mansour Zemam, Minister of Finance. (A GPC affiliate, replacing an Islah nominee Sakhr al-Wajeeh).

Ahmed Awadh Bin Mubarak (PHD), Executive Director of the Presidential Office. (Close to Hadi, replacing Taha who was appointed minister of  Information).

Mansour Ali alButani (PHD), General Secretary of the Presidency. (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi).

-Dr Abu Bakr alQirbi, Member of the Shura Council. (A GPC member & former minister of foreign affairs. A Shura Council post is considered more of sacking than a new appointment.)

-Jamal al-Salal, Minister of Foreign Affairs. (A relative of first republican president upon 1962 coup. Not much of Salal is known but said to be a Hadi associate).

-Ahmed Ubaid alFadhli, Member of the Shura Council. (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi)

-Hussam alSharjabi, Vice Minister of Finance.  (Said to be an affiliate of Hirak, close to Hadi).

-Fouad alHemyari, Vice Minister of Information. (An Islah member. Not much is known about al-Hemyari but He’s well known for his Friday’s preaches during 2011 uprising).

-Sakhr alWajeeh, Governor of Hodaidah. (An Islah nominee and former Finance minister.)

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What it took Martha Gellhorn Prize winner to cover the troubled region of Yemen

What readers of the good news coming last night from Martha Gellhorn Prize are not aware of what it took journalist Iona Craig to win such a prestigious prize. It was kind of her to give me a credit for accompanying her to the troubled region of Hadramout but it wasn’t me who took the trouble and risk.

 

 
It was in the middle of chaos in Hadramout when Iona asked me to go with her to the most troubled region in eastern Yemen amid an ongoing military offensive against what the military then dubbed “the dangerous leader of al-Qaeda in Ghail Bawazeer”. That announcement went viral in local and international media. However, for Iona Craig, a rebellious reporter and ever the challenger of the government’s declared “victories”, it rang a bell with similar announcements where such propaganda turned out later to be “official drivel”.

 

In one of Mukalla City hotel, Iona disguises herself in the black balto as a traditional Yemeni woman. Photo Credit: Shuaib Almosawa

In one of Mukalla City hotel, Iona disguises herself in the black balto as a traditional Yemeni woman. Photo Credit: Shuaib Almosawa

I crossed out the risk calculation of going there for I’ve always appreciated her keenness for such an excellent investigative journalism. Indeed, it was riskier for her despite efforts to disguise in the black balto as a traditional Yemeni woman. It worked well for the first couple of days until we travelled some 300 kms to Sayoon. Intelligence officials, out of their abundance of caution, tracked the ‘foreign journalist’ to the town’s hotel upon arrival and gently asked to accompany her during her stay in Sayoon. When she said ‘no need’, a phone call later to the hotel made it clear it was a must and that the intelligence services were already on the way to the hotel.

 

 
As a security officer in Sayoon said later, that abundance of caution was in practical terms a deportation of the foreign journalist. If caught, I wasn’t sure what I might have faced, but not less than a charge of facilitating a foreign spy.

 

 

I also appreciate honesty but sometimes it costs you a lot. That was the case when Iona insisted we have to pay the hotel for the two hour stay before we decided to run away back to Mukalla. While packing up, I was arguing with her that paying the hotel guy would definitely lead to our apprehension by the intelligence agencies when the hotel manager would be compelled to inform of our departure. The ruse was to tell the receptionist that we were leaving for dinner and to get money from ‘the nearest’ money transfer service. Iona insisted the money be left in the room and that the hotel staff would see it after our departure. But this left the risk of the staff going immediately to the room and discovering our ‘plot’ and thus report it to the intelligence agencies, meaning we could be stopped in one of the checkpoints along the 300+km drive back to Mukalla. I convinced her finally that they wouldn’t let us go unless we paid, regardless of any story we come up with. As we anticipated, he did ask as we told him we were going out for dinner and we immediately paid him. We also ‘urged’ him to clean any mess before we come back in an hour maximum. It was around 9 pm when we left Sayoon, panicked we could be caught anytime down the road. We arrived in Mukalla at dawn, safe but exhausted.

 

 

 

I woke up at noon to see the many calls from Sayoon’s intelligence officer asking whether we were still in that hotel or have moved elsewhere in the town. They were still willing to provide their help. Only then did I know that our plot worked!
It was an exciting experience that was worth a try. It was risky. For the potential publications interested in the coverage , the highest rate Iona told me about was $150. She had spent almost $1000.

 

 

 

Back to Sana’a a few days later, I told her that the great job she did must be rewarded sometime soon. And here we are with the good news: Iona won The Martha Gellhorn Prize for 2014.

It was so kind of Iona to give me such a credit that it wouldn’t have been possible for the prize if it wasn’t for me. In fact, it could have been possible from my point of view. She had made it alone to the most dangerous strongholds of al-Qaeda in Abyan some years before. It was indeed as announced by the Gellhorn judges: “Iona Craig receives the prize in 2014 for her courageous, insightful and humane reporting from Yemen — journalism exemplifying that of Martha Gellhorn herself”.
Again, congratulations to the courageous Iona and hope for more recognition of her excellent work from Yemen.

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Official: Four ‘northerners’ killed in ongoing violence South Yemen

Four people were killed in South Yemen and clashes between government officials and locals have erupted in more than one place. Based on a security officer at the Ministry of Interior, a number of violent events occurred in a couple of areas in South Yemen as a part of the ongoing disobedience that took into effect today. The disobedience was called for by southerners to protest Government’s killing of a powerful tribal leader in December 2, 2013. People in South Yemen have already grievances against the central government and killing the tribal sheikh was the last straw. Haykal Bafana’s twitter account and blog provide a background and detailed analysis of the issue.

Hadramout, Sayoon

-          Al-Kathiri tribe stormed General Security HQ and Investigation Department. Kathiri forced security personnel out. No causalities reported.

-          Clashes between tribes and security/military troops in a couple of nearby places.

Aden

-          Armed clashes between security and southerners in Dar Sa’ad, Sheikh Othman, al-Mua’la, al-Mansoora, and al-Tawahi. Causalities not yet known.

-          In al-Mansoora, protesters set on fire main building of Islah Party, the most powerful Islamist party leading the Government now.

Al-Dhale’

-          Four ‘northerners’ were killed by protesters in al-Muraisi farm.

-          Protesters stormed the province HQ.

-          Flag of Former South Yemen were raised in schools and other government buildings.

-          Protesters restored demarcation of former South-North boundary at Sanah area.

-          Protesters blocked Sana’a-Aden main road.

 

The security officer, who spoke annonimously, said there were no updtes in other places that also witneseed the uprising. The information above couldn’t be verified from another source.

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US drone strike kills 12 Yemeni people official said to be al-Qaeda

A US drone strike hit at least 12 people a local official said they were al-Qaeda members including ‘two operatives’ in a southeast province of Yemen this evening.

The local official in al-Baitha’a province said that a US drone hit a place harboring some 12 al-Qaeda members in Iyal Ammer, a militant hotbed area bordering Marib province. The official who works in al-Baitha’a security, said that two al-Qaeda members have already been identified as : Nayef Ali Al-Ahraq, 37, and Muhammed Ali Al-Amiri, 30. Both members are from Al-Baitha’a province and they have been brought to a local hospital, said the official who preferred not to be named.

He said that it’s not clear yet how many were killed but that all 12 were either killed or injured.

local news websites said that the drone strike hit a wedding convoy and not al-Qaeda. Barakish net, a local website, quoted local sources as saying that the drone hit a car among a wedding convoy, killing 10 people and injuring few others. Some of the 10 killed people are believed to be al-Qaeda members but that others aren’t, said the website. However, the security official said that all of them were “[al-Qaeda] fighters”. Both accounts couldn’t be verified immediately.

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