DUBAI (Reuters) - The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen prevented a U.N. flight carrying aid agency staff from traveling to the Houthi-controled capital Sanaa on Tuesday because three international journalists were also aboard, aviation sources said.
The coalition, which intervened in the Yemen conflict in 2015 in support of the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, controls the airspace over Yemen and can prevent any flights made without prior permission.
Aviation sources said the flight was prevented from taking off from Djibouti to Sanaa because three BBC journalists were on it.
A United Nations spokesman confirmed the report.
“The coalition claimed that the security of the journalists could not be guaranteed in rebel-controlled areas and advised the three journalists to travel on commercial flights,” said Ahmed Ben Lassoued, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen.
“It’s unfortunate and partially explains why Yemen, which is one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, is not getting enough attention in international media,” he added.
A source in the coalition said that the Yemeni government was the only party entitled to issue visas for foreigners and that entry must be made via commercial flights through Aden airport, which is under its control.
“The United Nations is not concerned with transporting journalists, except those who are coming to cover its own activities,” a source in the coalition said, adding that the U.N. must ensure the journalists safety and make sure they do not carry out any other activity.
U.S.-based humanitarian agency CARE International said its Secretary-General Wolfgang Jamann was scheduled to fly to Sanaa for a first-hand look at a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 1,800 people since April.
“This is the only way in and out of Sanaa,” said Wael Ibrahim, CARE country director in Yemen said.
The impoverished Arab country has been devastated by the war, which has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million.
“The lack of coverage is also hindering humanitarians’ effort to draw the attention of the international community and donors to the humanitarian catastrophe the country is experiencing,” Ben Lassoued said.
Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Hugh Lawson