Journalist ‘lucky’ to escape with a beating by security forces in Yemen
September 13, 2012 Leave a comment
A journalist who was attacked while covering violent protests at the US embassy in Yemen today said he felt lucky he was able to escape with little more than cuts and bruises.
Violence has spread across north Africa in the past 48 hours in the wake of an anti-Islam film which was broadcast on Egyptian television programme earlier this week.
Reports said that hundreds of demonstrators stormed the US embassy in the capital Sana’a following similar protests in Benghazi and Cairo.
Yesterday, the US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three of his staff were killed in an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi.
As windows to the embassy building in Sana’a were smashed, and cars and US flags burned, security forces used tear gas and gunfire to disperse the crowd.
Benjamin Wiacek, co-founder and chief reporter at Sana’a-based French news website ‘La Voix du Yemen’, told INSI that security forces beat him with sticks and pushed him to the floor amid a cloud of tear gas, before having the memory card of his camera taken.
But he said many journalists in Yemen meet a worse fate.
“Journalists in Yemen have a hard time reporting on news, especially when it’s not good for the government. Many have been threatened, arrested, jailed, beaten, and killed,” he said.
“Press freedom is far from respected, but I’ve been quite lucky today, compared with many of my Yemeni colleagues in the past.”
Wiacek reported on Twitter that he had been beaten by security forces as he photographed the unrest.
“I could see smoke coming from there [the US embassy] and tear gas. Everything was OK until I saw Central Security Forces at the end of the street shooting tear gas again, sometimes at close range on people,” he told INSI.
“They [security forces] ran to me, pushed violently, beat me up with their sticks, made me fall down on the floor, tried to rip my clothes.
“Despite showing them my official press card from Yemeni ministry and telling them in Arabic I was a journalist, they continued and did not care at all. I had to stay on the floor, to protect my camera and prevent them from stealing it.
“When they asked for my memory card, I refused and they got more violent until I finally gave it to them. We ran away and found shelter in a house near by to wait.”
Wiacek has been working as a journalist in Yemen for two years now and has not yet been targeted directly despite ongoing unrest in the country.
“This is the first time I’ve been targeted and assaulted by security,” he said.
“I think they [security] didn’t want me to film them while they were chasing protesters,” he told INSI. “I think it happened because of what I was filming.”
Journalists have reported difficulties covering events while security forces are present. Yemen Times journalist Ali Saeed was arrested and interrogated by security forces early last year during the uprisings in Yemen.
“When there are security forces at any event I leave the scene, because it is difficult to explain my mission to them,” he said.