YEMEN: Hossam Ashour, a Yemeni journalist made famous for his relentless reporting on corruption cases in the impoverished nation was sentenced to a three-month jail sentence after officials were angered by allegations of embezzlements and misuse of public funds made back in 2011 at the high of the revolution.
Program director and editor of state-owned Sayun Radio and regular contributor for News Yemen – an online Yemeni news provider – Ashour published a series of articles in which he uncovered cases of corruption in the eastern province of Hadramout. According to Ashour local government officials at the Public Reconstruction Fund for Hadramout and Mahrah – which was established in the wake of 2008 devastating floods to finance the provinces reconstruction efforts – were abusing their positions for financial gains, falsifying documents and re-routing public funds to private accounts. Strong of testimonies and documentations, Ashour took the matter to the press, determined to expose officials nepotism and chronic abuse of the system.
In May 2011, Ashour was put under investigation after those he accused of corruption decided to fight back allegations by seizing the court – among whom Abdullah Mutafi , the Fund’s Director –
Although Shaour was put on trial only a month after the opening of the court case – June 2011 – , the journalist continued to publish articles in relation to the Public Reconstruction Fund, more determined than ever said his colleagues not to let the authorities bully him into silence.
Khaled al-Hammadi, a prominent Yemeni journalist and president of Yemen local media watchdog, Freedom Foundation told the press his organization had been and would continue to closely follow the case as he believed the court’s decision had been politically motivated, yet another attempt by the system to silence the press.
Ashour was condemned to three months in prison and pay a fine of $1400 for “insulting public officials.”
“This conviction is a clear attempt by the Yemeni government to punish Hossam Ashour for his reporting,” said CPJ Deputy Director Rob Mahoney. “Instead of prosecuting Ashour, the Yemeni government should investigate the serious claims of corruption he has reported.”
Al-Hammadi confirmed that while Ashou would remain free for the duration of his appeal, the court had failed to appoint a date.