The IPI global network of journalists, publishers, and editors calls for an immediate investigation into the killing of Yemeni freelance photojournalist Fawaz al-Wafi, found slain on Wednesday. Authorities must investigate this murder and take swift action to guarantee the safety of journalists and media workers in Yemen.
On March 23, al-Wafi was found dead in his car in Taiz, a city in southwestern Yemen, with stab wounds to his chest and other parts of his body, according to news reports. Those responsible for his murder are still unknown.
Al-Wafi was a well-known photojournalist and community activist in Taiz, covering many events in the city. On his Facebook page, he often commented on public affairs in Yemen. It has not yet been determined if his murder is connected to his work as a journalist.
The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate released a statement on Facebook, in which they said Al-Wafi was killed under “mysterious circumstances”. The group called on authorities to arrest those responsible and to ensure they face charges in court. Authorities have not made an official comment about Al-Wafi’s death.
“Fawaz al-Wafi’s killing must not go uninvestigated or unpunished”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We urge authorities to find the motive behind this murder and to ensure that this and any other attacks against journalists are not carried out with impunity.”
Journalists in Yemen have worked under extremely dangerous and violent conditions since the outbreak of the violent civil war in 2014, when Shia Houthi rebels seized power of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, and made gains in many other parts of the country. Press freedom has since rapidly deteriorated, as journalists have become frequent targets of violence, torture, harrassment, and arrests by all factions involved in the conflict, according to the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate.
In 2020, four journalists were sentenced to death after being found guilty of charges of treason and espionage. They are currently still awaiting their death sentences despite calls by international organizations for their release. In 2021, journalist Rasha Abdullah al-Harazi was killed in a bomb attack while she was nine months pregnant.
The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate documented more than 100 press freedom violations in 2021, which according to the organization shows “the continuing dangers against the press and journalists, and the poor, unsafe and most hostile media environment towards journalistic work in all of Yemen”.
The highest number of violations involved detentions, arrests, and kidnappings of media workers and journalists, according to the organization.