Observed by: Mr. Alaa Isam
Today marks the anniversary of the beginning of the multiday siege by Yemeni police and security personnel of the compound that houses the offices of the independent daily Al-Ayyam. During its assault on the headquarters of the critical daily, the government used automatic machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and heavy weaponry. The siege and the ensuing violence was apparently initiated in response to journalists from Al-Ayyam and other outlets conducting a sit-in outside the compound to protest the daily's suspension since May.
The siege was not a first for Al-Ayyam. On May 13, 2009, government forces stormed the paper's compound after showering it with a hail of bullets. The ensuing firefight between government forces and the daily's guards, which the paper's management said lasted about an hour, left a passerby dead and two of the paper's guards injured.
Al-Ayyam was once the country's highest-circulation publication, reaching more than 70,000 readers, before it was effectively banned from publication in May 2009. Founded in 1958, Al-Ayyam has long been Yemen's most popular daily, dwarfing the circulation of the government-owned dailies combined. Prior to the ban, it was the only private newspaper to be distributed in every governorate of Yemen. popularity was rooted in its readiness to tackle Yemen's biggest red lines: corruption in the upper echelons of government, social unrest in the southern half of the country, and the years-long government offensive against Houthi rebels in the country's northern tip.