December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Bahrain

OPC Denounces Gassing of New York Times Duo in Bahrain

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:

We object in the strongest possible terms to the treatment of our colleagues, Nicholas Kristof and Adam Ellick of The New York Times, on December 9, while covering a protest in Bahrain.

Kristof and Ellick — who are members of the of the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC), and Ellick is also a member of the OPC board of governors — were both tear-gassed and placed in the custody of the Bahraini police on Friday during a protest in the city of Sitra.  The world knew what was happening in real time because both journalists provided live updates via Twitter even as they were being confined in separate police vehicle.

In case you have not read it, here is Kristof’s moment–by-moment account:

  • “Just got tear gassed here in Bahrain.  Protesters shouting “down with king” broken up by riot police in Jidhafs.”
  • “I was just pulled into police car here in Sitra, #Bahrain, but not sure if I’m being detained or protected.”
  • “Police seem to think this is awkward, holding me in car while they squelch protest.  One very nicely offered me water.”
  • “Adam says his camera got hit by tear gas grenade or rubber bullet. Then a cop hit him and the camera, breaking part of it.”
  • “I’m fascinated to learn from #Bahrain govt statement that I wasn’t detained but “sought police protection.” #sarcasm”

Kristoff and Ellick were later released and downplayed any suggestion that they were ever in serious danger.  We cannot help but see their treatment against a grim year-long trend for journalists and human rights activists in Bahrain, both leading up to and subsequent to last September’s parliamentary elections.  In the same week that the elections were held, the appeals chamber of Bahrain’s Court of National Safety upheld substantial prison terms for two on-line journalists.  That same week, authorities prevented a newspaper from even attempting to cover Saturday’s parliamentary by-election.

Your Majesty, there is no future for governments committed to a program of hostility to free expression.  The whole world can see into what happens in Bahrain, tweet by tweet.

Respectfully yours,
Kevin McDermott                                                                              
Larry Martz
OPC Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

Prince Kalifah bin Sulman Al Khalifa
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Manama
Kingdom of Bahrain

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

Adam Ellick:  ellickab@nytimes.com

Nicholas Kristof:  kristof@nytimes.com