4 April 2011

Reporters Without Borders condemns the Bahraini government’s attempts to impose a news blackout on the ongoing demonstrations and the police crackdown. Closure of opposition media, forced resignation of senior media personnel, harassment of local journalists and foreign TV crews, intimidation of Bahrainis who talk to foreign journalists, arrests of bloggers, government propaganda and military court orders – the authorities are resorting to all possible means to limit coverage of the protests and to smear their organizers and participants. Yesterday, the information ministry announced the closure of Al-Wasat, an opposition newspaper founded in 2002. Access to its online version was also blocked. The day before, the national television programme “Media Watch” had accused Al-Wasat of trying to harm Bahrain’s stability and security and of disseminating false information that undermined the country’s international image and reputation.

The Information Affairs Authority, the government agency that regulates the media, subsequently gave Al-Wasat permission to resume publishing from today but three of its most senior journalists – editor Mansour Al-Jamari, managing editor Walid Nouihid and local news editor Aqil Mirza – were forced to resign. The board of directors announced the appointment of Abidily Al-Abidily to replace Jamari as editor.

Jamari told the Associated Press that the government was trying to silence independent media in Bahrain.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) meanwhile reported that the military prosecutor general issued a decree on 28 March – Decision No.5 of 2011 – under which the publication of any information about ongoing investigations by military prosecutors was banned on national security grounds (http://www.fidh.org/Bahrain-risk-of...). The decree reinforces the arsenal of measures that authorities can use to silence any reporting about human rights violations.

CNN journalists Scott Bronstein and Taryn Fixel were briefly detained on 29 March while interviewing Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, at his home.

Reporters Without Borders also condemns the harassment of Bahraini bloggers. Photos of bloggers and human rights activists labelled as “traitors to the homeland” have been circulating on the Internet for several days. They include Mahmood Al-Yousif and Manaf Al-Muhandis, who were arrested on 30 March and were released the following day.

Mohamed Al-Maskati, who blogs under the name of Emoodz, is still being held in an unknown location since his arrest also 30 March. After blogging actively in the past few weeks and posting videos of recent events on his blog (http://emoodz.com/) and on Twitter (http://twitter.com/emoodz), he was threatened by a presumed member of the royal family, Mohd Al-Khalifa (https://twitter.com/#!/MohdSAlkhalifa). Since his arrest, he has been able to contact his family only once, on 31 March.

Khalifa meanwhile continues on Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/MohdSAlkhali...) to threaten anyone calling for Makati’s release: “#FreeEmoodz anyone that’s living in Bahrain and is supporting the terrorist emoodz, will have his IP address taken and will get arrested!”

There is still no news of Ali Abdulemam and Sayid Yousif Al-Muhafdah, two bloggers who disappeared on 16 March, and Abduljalil Al-Singace, a blogger who was arrested the same day. The blogosphere has reported the silence of several of its members without knowing whether they have been arrested or have gone into hiding to escape the police crackdown. Reporters Without Borders urges the government to end its hate campaign against bloggers and to immediately release all those it is holding.

rsf.org