The Yemeni Constitution allows for freedom of expression “within the limits of the law” and the laws regarding press and media are restrictive. The first relevant law is The Press and Publications Law of 1990. It requires journalists to uphold “national unity” and adhere to the “goals of the Yemeni revolution” that conducted the country to the unity in one State-Republic. Article 103 bans criticism of the head of State and defamation of “the image of Yemeni, Arab or islamic heritage.” Article 104 prescribes fines and up to a year in prison for violations. The government, during the time of the Ali Abdullah Saleh presidency, has ignored calls to repeal problematic portions of the 1990 law.
In 2012, Yemen finalised a Freedom of information law, becoming just the second Arab country, after Jordan, to enact such legislation, to be implemented in 2013. But institutional mechanisms were not adequately funded and the information agency authorised by the bill had yet to be established in 2015. The effect of the conflict erased transparency and left State institutions unresponsive to information requests. So, the few protections that the legal system provided for journalists’ rights were effectively unenforceable during 2015 and after, due to the breakdown of government functions and armed groups’ occupation of various parts of the country.