Yemen SMS news ban attacked by journalists

Yemen’s decision to block news stories delivered via mobile text messaging has drawn fire from free-press campaigners.

Following a meeting with Yemeni Journalists Syndicate head Thabit Saeed Thabit on Sunday, prime minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar agreed to lift bars preventing access to political websites.

But Yemen Observer reported Mujawar wants to suspend all SMS news services until his government’s Ministry of Information can draw up a new law governing electronic communications.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said the ministry has now outlawed mobile news alerts services from several networks including Nass and Bela Qoyod.

“It is disturbing that the Yemeni government is attacking new technology in this way,” a spokesperson said. “It never showed any open-mindedness towards the opposition media and these new arenas of expression offered a fresh opportunity for the media.

“The authorities have again demonstrated their determination to control news and information that is critical of them.”

Several websites with opposition political content were reportedly blocked for a variety of periods earlier this year, some of which had reported on the controversial killing of Shia Muslims by security forces in the Saada province.

The government last week began a review of media regulations following criticisms of president Ali Abdulah Saleh exchanged via SMS.

But this weekend’s meeting between the journalists’ representative and the prime minister was reportedly followed by a demonstration and prayers outside a government building by reporters and politicians opposing limits on press freedom.