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Download the full report - Human Rights Watch

II. Legal and Regulatory Framework

Yemen’s constitution, adopted in 1994, guarantees the right to freedom of expression in

article 41: “The state shall guarantee freedom of thought and expression of opinion in

speech, writing and photography within the limits of the law.” However, over many years

the authorities have exploited the qualification “within the limits of the law” to impose

excessive restrictions on free speech and the expression of dissent using both the criminal

law and a range of repressive practices. 15

This contributes to a continuing lack of legal and institutional safeguards for the media

that is feeding anxiety and self-censorship among journalists. Journalist Khaled al-

Hammadi, founder of the Freedom Foundation, summed up the media’s needs, as well as

the concerns of many other Yemeni journalists interviewed by Human Rights Watch:

Maybe freedom of media in Yemen improved a little after the revolution, but

the government still doesn’t have laws guaranteeing press freedoms and

journalists’ rights. … We want an improving judicial system, laws, and a

constitution to guarantee real freedom for journalists and broadcasting. 16

Such guarantees are essential if the recent blossoming of free speech in Yemen is to

endure and if journalists are to be free to report events without fearing that this may put

their lives at risk. As long as such fears remain, there journalists and editors will tend

towards self-censorship, to the detriment of public discourse and the public interest.

Criminal Law and the Media

On paper, Yemen’s Press and Publications Law of 1990 appears to be a liberal press law,

especially by comparison with other such laws in the Middle East and Gulf regions. In

practice, however, it operates as a serious obstacle to press freedom. The law, which

15 “Report on Human Rights in Yemen” submitted by Human Rights Watch to the UN Human Rights Committee on the

Occasion of its Review of Yemen in March 2012, February 1, 2012,

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/ngos/HRW_Yemen_HRC104.pdf

16 Human Rights Watch interview with Khaled al-Hammadi, journalist and founder of the Freedom Foundation, Sanaa, May 8, 2013.

"A LIFE-THREATENING CAREER" 10

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