April 12, 2024

Press Freedom


Yemen March 13, 2006

H.E. Ali Abdallah Salih
Office of the President
Al-Qasr Street
Republic of Yemen

Your Excellency:

We write to protest your government’s actions in response to the continuing controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, originally published in Denmark. Because they re-printed some version of the drawings, four Yemeni journalists are now threatened with lengthy prison terms, and their newspapers have been closed. We sympathize with those who have been offended by the cartoons, but these actions clearly violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we ask you to use your influence to have them reversed.

The four journalists — Mohammed Al-Asadi, editor-in-chief of the English language Yemen Observer ; Abdulkarim Sabra, managing editor and publisher of Al-Hurriya ; Yehiya al-Abed, a journalist for Al-Hurriya ; and Kamal al-Aalafi, editor-in-chief of the Arabic-language Al-Rai Al-Aam — are all charged with violating Article 103 of the Press and Publications Law of 1990. Article 103 prohibits “printing, publishing, circulating or broadcasting … anything which prejudices the Islamic faith and its lofty principles or belittles religions or humanitarian creeds.” If the journalists are convicted, they could be jailed for up to one year.

Your government’s reaction is especially troubling because none of these articles were intended to attack the Islamic faith. Quite the reverse: The Yemen Observer printed three cartoons with black marks covering potentially offensive portions, and Editor-in-Chief Mohammed Al-Asadi said his newspaper published the drawings to “protest the concept of their existence.” The newspaper denounced the cartoons while calling for calm and urging Yemenis to accept apologies offered in Denmark. The other reports had similar intentions.

Your Excellency, this controversy has been provocative in its origins, mischievous in its exploitation and tragic in its consequences. We hope it may subside without further damage. But it would be harmful indeed if the episode served to justify suppression of the basic human right of freedom of expression. We hope you will call for moderation and non-violence in protesting the cartoons, but we also urge you to underscore the value of a free exchange of views. And we ask you to do everything in your power to re-open the four newspapers and drop the charges against the editors.


Respectfully yours,
Larry Martz
Kevin McDermott
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee


Abdal al-Qadir Ba Jamal
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Republic of Yemen

Abd al-Wahhab Abdallah al-Hajjri
Ambassador of Yemen to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW (Suite 705)
Washington, DC 20037
Fax: (202) 337-2017


Ambassador Abdallah al-Saidi
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Yemen

to the United Nations
413 East 51st Street
New York , NY 10022
Fax: (212) 750-9613

Thomas C. Krajeski
U.S. Ambassador to Yemen
Embassy of the United States of America
Sa’awan Street

Fax: (011.967.1) 30-31-82


The News Editor

Yemen Observer

38 off Algiers Sreet
P.O.Box 19183
Rep. of Yemen

Fax : (011.967.1) 20-72-39