December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Bahrain

Bahrain May 5, 2011

H.M. King Hamada ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Kingdom of Bahrain
c/o Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
3502 International Drive, NW
Washington D.C.  20008

Your Majesty:

Your government seems to be using every means possible to enforce a news blackout about events in Bahrain, even though electronic media make it virtually impossible to conceal what is happening anywhere in the world nowadays.  The fate of the press may not loom large in the context of other events in your country and the rest of the Middle East.  However, the Overseas Press Club of America takes a particular interesting in defending the freedom of the press and believes that in time of crisis it is more important than ever that the people know the facts.

Therefore, it is with some dismay that we have watched as these events were reported in the news and on the websites of human rights organizations:

  • On March 12 – Security officers beat an Al Wasat photographer and smashed his equipment.
  • On March 15 – Dozens of men armed with clubs and knives attacked Al-Wasat’s printing plant, making the presses inoperable and threatening employees.
  • On March 18 – a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the house of Lamees

Dhaif, a commentator and journalist who has been critical of your government

  • On March 30 – Mohammed Al-Maskati, who blogs under the name Emoodz¸ was arrested and his whereabouts were unknown
  • On April 2 – Another news blogger, Zakariya Rashid Hassan al-Ashiri, was arrested and charged with spreading false news..
  • On April 3 — Al-Wasat did not appear and its on-line edition was disabled. The Information Ministry accused it of “deliberate news fabrication.” After editor-in-chief Mansoor al-Jamri, managing editor Walid Nouwaihidh and local news director Aqeel Mirza all resigned, effectively ending the independence of the newspaper, the Information Ministry lifted its ban.
  • On April 4 – Bahrain deported two other Al-Wasat journalists who were Iraqi nationals.
  • On April 9 – Al-Ashiri dies in government custody, allegedly from sickle cell anemia.
  • On April 12 – Karim Fakhrawi, a founder and member of the board of Al-Wasat dies in government custody, a week after his detention. The government says he died of kidney failure but photos of his body published on line showed extensive cuts and bruises. Bahrain’s public prosecutor announces he will be filing charges of “publishing false reports” and “harming the interests of the country” against the three Al Wasat editors who resigned on April 3.
  • On April 25 – Yet another Al-Wasat journalists, the columnist Haidra Mohammed al-Nuaimi, was dragged out of his house by police, beaten on the street, and then taken to an unknown destination.

Even if the charges against the Al-Wasat journalists were true, these monstruous attacks against them are totally unjustified, as are the many other measures taken against other journalists and human rights workers. There seems to be a suspicion that the “news fabrication” they are accused of was planted deliberately in order to justify their prosecution. However, even if they originated the news, there should be no basis for prosecuting them. Freedom of the press includes the right to make mistakes unless the false news is knowingly printed with a deliberate intent to cause damage can be proven.

We urgently ask you to give Bahraini journalists and indeed all citizens the rights that people all over the Middle East are demanding and that are well accepted in democracies

Respectfully yours,
Jeremy Main                                                                                           
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

Prince Kalifah in Sulman Al Khalifa                                            
Prime Minister                                                                         
Office of the Prime Minister                                                     
Manama                                                                                 
Kingdom of Bahrain                                                                 
Washington, D.C.  20520

Cheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa
Minister of Justice
Manama
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: (011.41.973.1) 753.1284

H.E. Ali bin Saleh Al Sale
Chairman of the Shura Council
P.O. Box 2991
Manama
Kingdom of Bahrain

H.E. Mohammed Abdulghaffar
Minister
Ministry of Information
Manama
Kingdom of Bahrain

H.E. Houda Nonoo
Ambassador of Bahrain to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
3502 International Drive, NW
Washington, D.C.  20008
Fax: (202) 362.2192

Ambassador Tawfeek Ahmed Khalil Almansoor
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United Nations
866 Second Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10017
Fax: (212) 319.0687

H.E. Stephanie Williams
U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain
Embassy of the United States of America
P. O Box 26431
Manama
Bahrain

Nabeel Rajab
President
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Nabeel.rajab@Bahrainrights.org

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC  20520