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Yemen Houthi militias holding more than 40 media staff

Published: Updated:

Yemeni militias who seized full control of the capital Sanaa over the past week have detained more than 40 media staff, press watchdogs said on Wednesday, demanding their immediate release.

They include staff of Yemen Today -- a television channel affiliated with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom the Houthi militias killed on Monday as he fled the capital following the collapse of their uneasy three-year alliance, the watchdogs said.

They overran the television’s Sanaa offices on Saturday after attacking it with rocket-propelled grenades and wounding three guards, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.

“This hostage-taking is typical of the climate of hostility in Yemen towards journalists, who are often targeted in this conflict,” said RSF’s Alexandra El Khazen.

A spokesman for the Committee to Protect Journalists called for the immediate release of the journalists, saying the Houthi attack on Yemen Today “shows a profound contempt for press freedom”.

Saleh, who ruled Yemen for three decades, had joined forces with the Houthis in 2014 when they took control of large parts of the country, including the capital.

But that alliance unraveled over the past week as the former leader reached out to the Saudi-led coalition that has waged an air campaign against the Houthis since March 2015.

A least 234 people were killed in fighting that the International Committee of the Red Cross described as the fiercest since the start of the conflict.

An official of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) said some of the detained staff had since been transferred to prison while others were still being held in the television’s offices.

“The Houthis were exerting pressure on them to change their coverage, to issue certain statements and report the betrayal of former president Saleh and accuse him of working for the Arab coalition.

“But the journalists refused to do it,” the official said.