, DUBAI, May 16 – Human Rights Watch on Saturday accused Yemen of trying to silence the independent press after the authorities there suspended eight newspapers and also stormed a daily in the south.
"These actions are a clear effort to silence independent voices in Yemen," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of the US-based watchdog, in a statement which urged the government to "immediately cease attacks on independent newspapers."
"President Ali Abdullah Saleh needs to end this campaign of intimidation and censorship," she said in the statement received by AFP in Dubai.
The Sanaa government last week decided to close eight newspapers it accused of inciting separatism amid unrest in southern Yemen during which at least eight people, including four soldiers, were killed.
Dozens of journalists gathered at their union’s headquarters in Sanaa on May 7 after the information ministry decided to suspend or seize Al-Ayyam, Al-Masdar, Al-Watani, Al-Diyar, Al-Nida, Al-Shari, Al-Mustaqila and Al-Ahali.
South Yemen was united in 1990 with North Yemen to form the current republic.
Socialists who formerly ruled the south led a secession bid in 1994 that sparked a two-month civil war before the uprising was crushed by northern forces loyal to the veteran Saleh.
One person was also killed and three were wounded in a gunfight in the former southern capital of Aden on Wednesday as police moved in to arrest the editor of Al-Ayyam newspaper, Hisham Basharaheel.
He is wanted for his alleged role in the murder of a man outside the newspaper’s office in Sana last year, an official said.