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Security forces shut down Al Jazeera office in Yemen's Taiz

Media watchdog says authorities are 'silencing the country's few remaining voices'
Al Jazeera calls decision unjustified (AFP)

Security forces on Tuesday closed Al Jazeera’s office in Taiz, central Yemen, citing the network’s negative coverage of forces loyal to the Saudi-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Al Jazeera condemned the decision by the Taiz Supreme Security Command, calling it unjustified. The network also vowed to continue its “balanced” coverage of the events in Yemen.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia began a bombing campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom the kingdom accuses of being an Iran proxy.

Taiz has been a major point in the conflict, with Saudi- and UAE-backed forces thwarting repeated Houthi attempts to capture the city.

Qatar was a part of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. However, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt imposed sanctions on Doha last year and demanded that it close the Al Jazeera network.

The Taiz Supreme Security Command said in a statement that it closed the channel’s office because of Al Jazeera’s coverage that “reflects negatively” on the war efforts against the Houthis.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based media watchdog, urged Yemeni authorities to immediately reopen the network’s office in Taiz.

Its Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator, Sherif Mansour, said journalists in Yemen are already working in dangerous conditions.

"For authorities to stop an international outlet in a frontline city from broadcasting is tantamount to silencing the country's few remaining voices, and mirrors the practices long seen in Houthi-controlled areas," Mansour said in a statement.

Last month, Houthi rebels raided the Yemen Al Youm TV channel in Sanaa, holding its staff members hostage. The network is associated with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed by the Houthis on 4 December.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi-led bombardment began. The conflict has also pushed the country to the verge of famine and has caused a deadly cholera outbreak. 

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