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McClatchy wants Yemen to restore US journalist visa

McClatchy has asked the president of Yemen to direct his government to issue a new visa to Adam Baron, McClatchy’s special correspondent in that country. Baron was expelled from the country in May without explanation.

Anders Gyllenahaal, McClatchy vice president for news and the newspaper group’s Washington editor, said McClatchy had concluded that Baron’s work as a journalist was behind the expulsion. His “forced departure” from Yemen “violated international norms for the treatment of journalists.”

“Allowing Mr. Baron to return to Yemen would be the just way to rectify this error,” Gyllenhaal wrote in a letter addressed to the country’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Baron was one of a handful of correspondents representing Western news organizations in Yemen and his expulsion drew outrage on social media from fans who looked forward to his dispatches from a place where few foreign journalists operate, much less reside.

Even the spokesman for Yemen’s embassy in Washington, Mohammed Albasha, tweeted his support for Baron, writing that he has “touched many lives in Yemen & left a positive footprint & I strongly object to the authorities decisions to deport him.”

The Yemeni government offered no explanation and no official comment beyond acknowledging that the expulsion came from the “Passport and Naturalization Department.”

Baron’s reports often called into question official versions of events in Yemen. Last summer, Baron’s reporting for McClatchy angered Obama administration officials by revealing that the United States had intercepted a communication between al Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahiri and the leader of Yemen-based Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasir al Wuhayshi, leading to a U.S. decision to temporarily close diplomatic facilities in 21 countries. U.S. officials had revealed that detail to reporters for The New York Times but had asked that it be kept secret, a request the Times agreed to. But Baron learned the same information in Sanaa, where it was widely known.

His expulsion came a day after the State Department announced it was temporarily suspending public services at its embassy in Sanaa because of security concerns.

Baron moved to Yemen to study Arabic but began reporting for McClatchy in 2011, when the uprising against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh erupted. He became a fixture on the Yemeni political scene, counting many highly placed political, military and tribal leaders among his contacts.

Baron’s tenure in Yemen ended May 6 when he presented himself at an immigration office in response to a phone call saying documents were missing from his residency file. He was promptly stripped of his passport and cellphone and was told, “You’re no longer welcome in Yemen.” He was kept in a holding cell until a friend agreed to be his custodian until Baron could board a flight out of the country. He left Yemen for Cairo the next day.

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