Middle East
Yemen to deport detained NZ journalist
Glen Johnson, a freelance journalist who was arrested in southern Yemen a week ago, was reporting on human trafficking.
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2011 00:54
Glen Johnson has been reporting from the Middle East for international and New Zealand media

Yemeni authorities are set to deport a New Zealand journalist who was earlier arrested in the violence-torn country, a source told Al Jazeera.

Glen Johnson, a freelance journalist based in the Middle East, was arrested a week ago whilst he was investigating a story on the human trafficking trade from Africa to the Middle East.

However, the exact circumstances of his arrest are unknown.

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A Yemeni official, who requested to remain anonymous as he was not authorised to speak to media, confirmed that the journalist had been arrested in the south of the country.

"Glen Johnson was detained by Yemeni police in the southern coastal province of Lahij for illegally entering the homeland," the official told Al Jazeera by phone.

"He will be soon transferred to the custody of immigration authorities, which will initiate deportation procedures."

Johnson is to be transported to one of two deportation facilities in Yemen, either in Sanaa, the capital, or the southern city of Aden, the official said.

The New Zealand ministry of foreign affairs and trade (MFAT) told Al Jazeera that it had been in direct, daily contact with the Yemeni authorities through its embassy in Saudi Arabia. The ministry did not comment on the possibility that Johnson would be deported.

"The ministry has no further updates to make at this point but we are comfortable with the progress being made with Yemen authorities," a spokesperson said.

New Zealand, which has no diplomatic representatives in Yemen, had also received help from the British and Canadian embassies in the Gulf state.

The 28-year-old has been based in Egypt since January, and had reported on the situation there for international publications including Le Monde Diplomatique and the International Herald Tribune. He also writes for several New Zealand media outlets.

Prior to moving to Cairo, he did a stint working for a newspaper in Turkey. He has also spent time in the West Bank and in Jordan.

The last piece filed by Johnson, on New Zealand's contribution to the UN peacekeeping force in Sudan, was published in the Herald on Sunday, a weekly New Zealand newspaper.

It is not the first time Johnson has drawn the attention of Yemen's immigration authorities.

A year ago, when he was in Yemen on a reporting assignment, the country's national security bureau ordered him to leave the country within 72 hours.

Shannon Johnson, the journalist's sister, said it was difficult for the family not to have any way of communicating with him.

"It's frustrating more than anything, not having that contact," she said.

Local media had been slow to pick up on the story, she said, but the family had been heartened by the show of support from the public on social media.

"It feels like it's just flying under the radar right now, but just having the support from complete strangers been really phenomenal," the high school teacher said.

A FaceBook page calling for Johnson's release had drawn 243 "likes" at the time of writing, and a Twitter campaign under the #FreeGlen hashtag had taken off on the Twitter microblogging website.

NGOs have also called on the Yemeni authorities to allow communication with his family.

"Yemeni authorities must afford him the support being offered by the New Zealand embassy in the region, and ensure that any charge brought against him is done swiftly and transparently," Jacqueline Park, the Asia-Pacific director of the International Federation of Journalist, said.

The New Zealand branch of Amnesty International has expressed "grave concern" over Johnson's apparent incommunicado detention.

The Yemeni authorities should either charge him for whatever crime he is accused of breaking, or immediately release him, the human rights NGO said in a statement.

Al Jazeera
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