In a phone conversation with BJP, Marco Di Lauro, a World Press Photo winner, confirms that he was deported, on Saturday, from Yemen to prevent them from reporting anti-government protests.
The photographer was working alongside journalist Patrick Symmes for Outside , a US travel magazine. "We were working on a travel piece looking at tourism in Yemen, as well as the current social and political context," says Di Lauro, who joined Symmes in Sana'a on 05 March.
"I entered the country on a tourism visa, mainly because they didn't want to issue me with a journalist visa," Di Lauro tells BJP. "But, as soon as I arrived, they spotted me as a photographer because of my equipment. They confiscated my passport and I had to go to the Ministry of Information to receive authorisation to stay in the country."
Since the photographer was working for a travel magazine, he was allowed to stay in Yemen under the supervision of a minder. The journalists visited the "Great Mosque of Sana'a, Adan, the mountains and Socotra Island." But, when they returned from the island, 500 km south of Yemen, the journalists were detained.
"We were meant to stay four more days, but when we got back to Sana'a, they didn't allow us to leave the airport." That was on 12 March, when tensions escaladed in the country. In a 24-hour period, hundreds of protesters were injured and seven killed.
"The Yemeni government didn't want any foreign journalists there," says Di Lauro. "We tried to call the Italian embassy, the US embassy, the Yemeni embassy in Washington DC and the Ministry of Information in Sana'a, but no one could help. The Ministry of Information said it was a matter of national security."
The journalists were confined to an airport hotel room, waiting 12 hours for the next plane home. "At one point, [Yemeni authorities] stormed in the room with guns asking for our passport back."
On Sunday, they were on a plane back to Europe.
Di Lauro and Symmes are not the only journalists to have been deported from Yemen. Reporters Without Borders reports that another four journalists were arrested and deported last week. They are Oliver Holmes, a stringer for the Wall Street Journal and Time, Portia Walker, who strings for the Washington Post, as well as Haley Sweetland Edwards, of the Los Angeles Times and AOL News, and Joshua Maricich, "who writes for various media including the Yemen Times," according to the press freedom organisation.
"The arrests and deportation of foreign journalists are a very worrying sign of nervousness on the part of the authorities, who are sending a clear signal to other journalists working for foreign media not to report the abusive treatment that demonstrators have been receiving from the security forces," says Reporters Without Borders. "This is a blatant act of censorship that must be strongly condemned. After targeting Yemeni journalists, the authorities now want to gag the foreign media and impose a news blackout on the events taking place in Yemen."
Yemeni journalists have also been targeted with Reporters Without Borders reporting that Hamoud Hazza, a reporter for the Saba news agency, "sustained a head injury while covering clashes between the security forces and demonstrators on Change Square in Sanaa on 12 March."
The organisation adds that Jaber Saber, a journalist working for the Marib Press news agency, "was assaulted by members of the security forces on the square."
Also, Abdel Salam Jaber, the editor of the newspaper Al-Qadiya, "was kidnapped by the security forces while on his way to the square on 12 March. His present whereabouts are not known."
For more details, visit the Reporters Without Borders website.
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