In a recent article to Global Post, Belkis Wille, a researcher with Human Rights Watch put the focus on Yemen journalists, revealing the hidden scars and untold trauma endured by press people in Yemen as their work have literally taken over their lives.
While Yemen has never exactly been hailed a role model when it comes to press freedom and freedom of expression, the concept of a post-revolution repressive Yemen somewhat raises some inherent social and cultural question marks.
If many have slammed former President Ali Abdullah for his dictatorial method and control over the media, journalists have all agreed that ever since the Arab Spring and Yemen so-called liberation, things have gotten much worse than they could have ever envisioned, let alone expected.
Interestingly as dozens of new websites exploded on the web, spurred on by a need to comment, report and analyze on everything political, judicial, social, institutional or religious after three decades of journalistic torpor, Yemen journalists feel more vindicated than ever before.
Mohammed al-Rubaa, somewhat of a celebrity in Yemen as his sarcasm, irresistible comic sense and disarming humor have made him a crowd favourite, rose to fame in 2011, at the height of Yemen revolutionary movement when he was given a daily slot on Suhail TV as a satiric political commentator.
As al-Rubaa' show gained in popularity, the comedian became the target of unsavory characters He recalled to have been threatened, bullied and verbally abused.
Speaking on his ordeal, al-Rubaa told Wille, “As much as I miss them, I cannot live with my family anymore ... my work puts them in danger. The reality is that I entered a profession that may lead to a very short life."
The 27 year-old TV personality has been forced to live alone, alienated from his family as he fears ill-wishers could in order to get to him target his loved ones.
He also confirmed that death threats had been made against his person on numerous occasions.
Aware that his humor has helped break Yemen's fear barrier in relation to the state and politics in general, al-Rubaa said he has no intention of ever stopping, especially not on account of fear.
As per recalled by Wille in her report, al-Rubaa was attacked back in May 2012. A group of unknown armed men waited outside his home one day and began to chase him as he left his residence. In another incident, the TV studio where he works was bombed.
Sadly, Mohammed is far from alone. While only a handful of journalists have agreed to publicly come forward and denounce such harassment practices, it is believed that what many have already dubbed journalistic terrorism is fast becoming a major issue in Yemen.
Yemen stands at a strange crossroad, whereby President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi has relaxed state control over the media while individuals are running witch-hunts against journalists who do not meet their approval.
As noted by Wille in Global Post, "this newfound freedom has been tempered by a rising incidence of attacks on journalists, bloggers, and others who speak out."
When 2012 World Freedom Index was published earlier this year, settling Yemen firmly at the bottom 10, the following comment was attached, "Yemen (171st, +2) continues to languish in the bottom ten. There have been no legislative changes in the year since Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi took over as president. Journalists are still exposed to physical attacks, prosecution and even jail sentences."
Nine months have since then passed and very little has changed, if not gotten worse ,as the authorities have failed to address the growing phenomenon.
In April 2013, Reporters Without Borders said to be "alarmed by the growing number of threats and physical attacks against journalists."
RWB pointed to a series of incident, noting that Yemeni journalists were facing aggravated perils, among which:
"Mansoor Noor, a correspondent for the 26 September newspaper, was attacked and shot by three gunmen while he was going to work in Aden on 17 April and had to have a leg with a bullet wound amputated.
Mohamed Aysh, the editor of the daily Al-Ula, received more than 30 phone messages in April 2013 threatening him with execution or having his hand cut off and his tongue cut out.
Mohamed Al-Hudhaifi’s 13-year-old son eluded a kidnap attempt in the southwestern city of Taiz on 21 April. After failing to seize him, his assailants chased him and ran him down with car. He was hospitalized with serious head and leg injuries."
Yemen Freedom Foundation, a local NGO which seeks to promote and advocate press freedom has documented said Wille 260 cases of abuse against journalists in 2012 alone; by mid-2013, it had registered 144.
Wille has called on the government to hold all individuals accountable for their crimes, warning that "Impunity breeds acceptance of the unacceptable."