Armed Yemeni security forces raided an apartment shared by four Western journalists Monday and deported them because of their coverage of a growing uprising against the country's longtime ruler, one of the reporters said.
The journalists, two Americans and two Britons in their 20s, contribute to publications including the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.
"They came into our apartment this morning and they told us all to come to the immigration office," said Oliver Holmes, 24, a Briton. "They sat us down and said, 'You're being deported.'"
In the car on the way to immigration, the journalists were allowed to make phone calls. But their phones and passports were confiscated for hours while they were held at the immigration office and then as they packed up their apartment under the gaze of armed agents.
One of the agents told Holmes they were being kicked out because of their coverage of the uprising, which was inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was alarmed by the expulsion of foreign journalists, saying it may be a prelude to intensified repression of journalists seeking to cover the protests.
"We call on the authorities to revoke these explusions and allow all journalists to work freely," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney.
A CPJ statement also quoted two local journalists as saying that a group of 20 people believed to be government supporters went to the Journalists Syndidcate in Sanaa Monday and threatened to burn it down.
Yemen has largely stopped issuing journalist visas as it tries to control coverage of the protests, but Holmes said he and his roommates had the appropriate accreditation.
"The situation in Yemen has got quite dire in the past three days," he said, speaking by telephone from the airport in Qatar. "We have all been reporting on the use of violence by the police," he said.
With no sign his opponents will accept anything less than his ouster, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has launched an increasingly violent crackdown. For weeks, thousands have staged daily demonstrations in the capital, Sanaa, and elsewhere in the impoverished country.
Even before the protests, Saleh's government barely had control beyond Yemen's capital and faced threats from rebels in the north and a secessionist movement in the once-independent south.
He has been in power for 32 years.
The other journalists who were deported are Americans Haley Sweetland Edwards and Joshua Maricich, and British citizen Portia Walker.