In Sync with the campaign pursued by the security authorities of Bahrain

09 September 2010

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights express its deep concern on the Authority continued policy to restrict freedom of opinion and expression and the imposition of further restrictions on medium of information publication and means of expression, which has emerged recently in the decision of the Information Affairs Authority to suspend the audio reports broadcasted by the daily newspaper Al-Wasat on its website.

The Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat published on August 16, that it has received a letter from the Information Affairs Authority, asking the newspaper to suspend broadcasting its audio reports, a modern press service provided by the newspaper to its online readers. The newspaper has been previously licensed to broadcast recorded audio reports on the Web in 2009, but this recent suspension of the service is based on the Authority's decision to stop this activity as of that date, pending the Council of Ministers approval on a resolution that regulates the work and conditions of this activity. "[ 1] This decision contradict with what Decreed Law No. (47) for the year 2002 approves on the regulation of the press, printing and publishing, which sets audio reports within the definition of the «Publications». This is not the first time in which the Information Affairs Authority (previously Ministry of Information) issues a ban on the techniques of modern journalism as it had previously prevented Alwasat newspaper last year from the use of video technology to broadcast visual reports.

The decision follows the broadcasting of some critical audio programs recently, which may have created discomfiture to the authority, one of them is the interview with the President of the oppositional National Democratic Action Society WAAD, during which he criticized the policy of the Authority. And the second is the first episode of the "Public Opinion Case" program that discussed the events of abuses of prisoners in the Jaw Central Prison and included recorded witness of the families of prisoners who expressed their concern and dismay by the degrading treatment of the prison authority to them, one of the issues that witnessed many abuses and the authority tried to obscure it.

Al-Wasat new spaper has begun to provide audio reports on its website in 2009, when it has transformed the traditional media through the use of modern technologies to keep up with events on the local scene through conducting audio interviews with different people and providing more space for the expression of opinion. The subjects of these reports varied between political, cultural, sports and social issues. And it has become very popular among the site visitors as noted through the reams of comments and page views.

The service has created the opportunity for groups from the community to express their opinions and views on cultural, political and social issues through audio interviews, when authority is controlling all visual and audio media channels and practicing an undeclared ban on critical subjects or hosting any of the victims or marginalized groups in the community. Although Bahrain is possessing the technical features to enhance what is known as the new media using new technologies and internet connection but its repressive policies have led to a decline in Bahrain rank on the international indicators on freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, according to reports by Reporters Without Borders[2], where Bahrain has dropped from rank 96 in 2008 to 120 in 2009 and the Freedom House[3], which ranked Bahrain as (not free) in the report of the Freedom of the Press in 2009.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the Information Affairs Authority prevention of this service is intended to restrict the media and the independent press and to retain authority traditional dominance on all media channels in the country. The Centre believes that the timing of this decision, which synchronizes with a security crackdown targeting human rights defenders is an attempt to undermine and limit any oppositional or critical voice to this campaign.

This decision is a clear violation of freedom of the press, opinion and expression as provided for in international conventions and in particular article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates that " Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. "

In the light of the foregoing, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following:

1 - Stop the continuous targeting of the media and independent local and international press and stop restricting them. 2 - Lift the ban on broadcasting services, visual and audio reports on the website of AlWasat newspaper and other news sites and stop the practice of dominating the visual and audio media industry 3 - Respect the rights of people to get news and information. And respect Bahrain's obligations as a member of the Human Rights Council. 4 - Reform of laws restricting freedom of opinion and expression, primarily the Press and Publications Law of 2002, to comply with the standards and international standards of human rights.

--- [1]www.alwasatnews.com [2]rsf.org [3]freedomhouse.org