2011-01-23 Middle East protest round-up: Yemen, Jordan, Algeria

Protests have spread across the Middle East in the wake of Tunisia's popular uprising set in motion by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, resulting in the intimidation, arrest, and imprisonment of dissident voices and journalists. Governments in the region have responded with both carrots and sticks. A short round-up of significant events over the weekend in Yemen, Jordan, and Algeria.

Yemen: Reporters Without Borders: Arrests and threats against journalists.

... Tawakkol Karman, the head of the NGO Women Journalists Without Chains, ... was arrested for unclear reasons in the capital, Sanaa, yesterday evening following a protest in the city in the afternoon. Her family said she is being held in Sanaa’s main prison. Yesterday’s demonstration was part of a 10-day-old wave of protests in Yemen inspired in part by the protests in Tunisia. Around 20 people have been reportedly arrested. ... More than 200 journalists took part in a march this morning to demand their release.

Reporters from Al-Arabiya and Al Jazeera attempting to cover the demonstrations were also allegedly detained and roughed up.

In the southern city of Aden, police yesterday arrested Abdel Khaliq Al-Hawad, who works for the newspaper Akhbar Aden (Aden News), as he tried to cover a demonstration staged by an opposition party ... Al Jazeera’s Aden correspondent, Fadel Mubarak, was warned by the provincial head of security of Abyan that he would be added to the list of wanted persons if he continued to cover events. These threats come in the wake of a journalist who has specialized in covering Al-Qaeda, Ilah Haydar Shae, was sentenced to five years in prison on January 18th by a Sanaa court.Shae, who was the first Yemeni journalist to allege US involvement in an attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah in the Abyan area of southern Yemen on December 17, 2009, has vowed not t appeal his sentence, according to journalists present in the courtroom:

I do not stand now in front of a judiciary but in front of a gang belonging to the national security apparatus.

-Haydar Shae

Read Wikileaks sourced U.S. embassy cables from Yemen.

Jordan, Al Arabiya: Measures designed to "drug people".

More than 5000 people rallied in Amman and other cities in Jordan after weekly prayers on Friday against Jordan's economic policies, demanding real political and socio-economic reforms, despite Prime Minister Samir Rifai's announcement of a $ 283 million plan to raise salaries of government staff and pensions of retired government employees in the face of popular discontent. Opposition leaders viewed this move as "measures designed to drug people".

The government should change its economic policies and mentality. We are protesting today because we want to protect ourselves and our nation. We have gone 50 years backwards.

-Unionist Maisarah Malas

A $1.5 billion deficit, equivalent to 5% of gross domestic product, is expected on Jordan's $8.8 billion budget this year.

Read Wikileaks sourced U.S. embassy cables from Jordan.

Algeria, CNN: Injuries and "unauthorized" free speech.

Baton-wielding Algerian security forces clashed Saturday with protesters who defied a ban and took to the streets of the capital demanding political reform. Eleven individuals and eight policemen were injured, two seriously, and nine protestors were arrested. In Algeria, the protests broke out over spiraling food costs. The opposition blames the government of failing to use the north African nation's energy wealth to better the lives of ordinary people. In Algeria, the protests broke out over spiraling food costs.

We asked to do a march, in a legal way, but they told us: 'You are the opposition and you don't have any rights in your country.'

-Said Saadi, head of Algeria's largest opposition party, Rally for Culture and Democracy

The government called the demonstration "small" with about 250 people and said it was "unauthorized." Security forces prevented journalists from photographing the demonstration or interviewing organizers. A law adopted in 2001 indefinitely bans all demonstrations in Algiers, according to the monitoring group Human Rights Watch. A nationwide state of emergency in effect for nearly two decades allows the government to ban any event that is "likely to disturb public order and tranquility."

Read Wikileaks sourced U.S. embassy cables from Algeria.