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CPJ: Violent media intimidation in Yemen and Bahrain

New York, May 24, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the governments of Yemen and Bahrain to end all intimidation and harassment of and physical violence against journalists. In Yemen, on Saturday, a journalist was attacked and repeatedly stabbed by unidentified assailants. In Bahrain, the authorities continue to detain and abuse journalists.

"Yemen and Bahrain have for months been among the most consistent violators of the rights of journalists in the Middle East," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. "These two governments continue to use violence to intimidate and target journalists, in an effort to control the narrative."

In Bahrain, attacks on media also continue unabated. Photographer Mazen Mahdi, who works for Deutsche Presse Agentur and Defense News, was detained on Sunday, reported the U.K.-based Financial Times. Mahdi told the Financial Times that he was blindfolded, cuffed, and beaten. "They were claiming I 'published lies' that harmed the country's image," Mahdi told the FT. Nazeeha Saeed, a reporter for Radio Monte Carlo and France24, was also detained and roughly interrogated on Sunday, but apparently not beaten, according to the FT. Both journalists were released in the early morning hours on Monday.

Bahraini photographers Ali al-Kufi, Saeed Dhahi, and Hassan al-Nasheet, who were detained on May 15, were released, local journalists and human rights activists told CPJ. Another photographer, Mohamed al-Sheikh, who was detained around the same time, remains in custody, however, according to the same sources. Photographers Mohammad Ali al-Aradi of the daily Al-Bilad, Abdullah Hassan of the daily Al-Ayyam, and freelancer Nidal Nuh were detained on May 8, 14, and 18, respectively, local journalists and human rights activists told CPJ.

cpj.org

ANHRI condemns blocking Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper website

Cairo 24 May 2011

ANHRI has condemned today the Bahraini authorities for blocking the access to the dependent Al-Qudus Al-Arabi newspaper website on Monday 23th May 2011 in Bahrain. The blocking decision has been taken in the wake of publishing an article the editor-in-chief Abdel Bari Atwan has written under the title “the Saudi intervention in Bahrain is very dangerous”. Atwan has criticized Saudi Arabia for sending one thousand soldiers to participate in suppressing the peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain, considering this to be an unprecedented intervention in a crisis that one the region sovereign countries is facing and warning of a possible sectarian tension which may lead to a regional war.

This action is a new phase within a series of measures taken to suppress the general freedom in the kingdom in the wake of the peaceful protests which the Bahraini authorities has dramatically succeeded in suppressing due to the help of the Saudi military forces. Since then the Bahraini authorities have specifically targeted media, internet, and human rights activists.

In 21 March 2011, the Bahraini government has revoked all licenses belonging to the 2Connect company owned by Ibrahim Sherif, president of Al Waad opposition party, few days later after his arrest for participating in the peaceful protests.

On Saturday 2 April, the Bahraini authorities have issued a resolution to close the independent “Al Wassat”, a newspaper that does not support the government nor the opposition, just because it has published news about the protests in Bahrain.

Also the notable human rights activist Nabil Ragab, president of Bahrain Human Rights Center, has been investigated by the martial prosecutor after being charged of posting fake photos on twitter blog that show signs of torture on the body of Ali Issa Sakr, a citizen who died in the jail in 9 April 2011, before the assault on his home with tear gas grenades for the second time on Saturday 21 May 2011 by dawn.

During the first weeks of April 2011, 4 citizens have been tortured to death in Bahraini jail according to the human rights activists reports in Bahrain. Most of them are internet activists like Zakaria Rashed who died in 9 April 2011. In 12 April 201 the activist, business man and director of Al Wassat newspaper Karim Fakhrawy died in the Bahraini jail.

ANHRI stated “The crackdown on internet activists and blocking of websites show clearly how far the Bahraini government is against internet freedom specially after the protests flare last months. The suppressive measures have highly included targeting the internet and its activists and even killing them in prisons. Therefore Bahrain becomes only few steps from Saudi Arabia, which is in the lead of countries targeting internet freedom over the world, and after that internet freedom had dramatically improved in Tunisia following the Jasmine Revolution.

ANHRI has added “The journalist and writer, Abdel Bari Atwan, did not commit any fault that may give reason to the Bahraini authority to block his website. He has just expressed true opinion and fears toward the Saudi intervention in helping Bahrain suppressing the peaceful protests. The Saudi and Bahraini governments should have instead meditated in Atwan legal opinion rather than expanding their crackdown to include those who criticize it!!”

anhri.net

RSF: Amid international indifference, targeted repression continues in Bahrain

BAHRAIN

In the past few days, the authorities have arrested more photographers and photo-journalists who had been covering the pro-democracy demonstrations taking place in Bahrain since mid-February. The aim of these targeted arrests is to limit the dissemination of news reports, photos and video of the protests and the government crackdown.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of these photographers and of all the other people who have been arrested for circulating information about the protests and repression. The press freedom organization also calls on the courts to overturn the conviction of Hassan Salman Al-Ma’atooq, a photographer who has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that a military court imposed the sentence on Ma’atooq on 12 May after convicting him on four charges including two relating to his work as a photographer – fabricating photos of injured people and disseminating false photos and information. Aged 29, he has been held since 23 March.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that Mohamed Ali Al-Aradi, who works for the newspaper Al-Bilad, was arrested on 8 May, and that, Abdullah Hassan, who was recently fired from the newspaper Al-Watan, was arrested on 14 May. He had been injured on 13 March while covering clashes between demonstrators and the security forces. Mohamed Salman Al-Sheikh, a photographer who heads the Bahrain Society of Photography, is meanwhile still being held. He was arrested at his home in Sanabis, a village west of Manama, on 11 May. Photographer Nedhal Nooh, a member of the Bahrain Society of Photography, was summoned for interrogation on 18 May in West Riffa (a city to the south of the capital). He has been held ever since.

Fadel Habib, a columnist who writes mainly about educational issues for Al-Wasat, was arrested at a check-point on 20 May and was released last night.

Naziha Saeed, a journalist who works for Radio Monte-Carlo and France24, was summoned and interrogated for nearly 12 hours on 22 May. She has often talked about the government-orchestrated repression in the foreign media in recent months.

The photo-journalist Mazen Mahdi was summoned and questioned for two hours on 22 May, mainly about is Twitter activities during demonstrations, his work for DPA and his alleged links with Lebanese and Iranian media. He was handcuffed and blindfolded, beaten several times and threatened with torture. Mahdi was previously detained briefly in March for taking photos of thugs smashing shop windows.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that Ali Abdulkarim Al-Kufi, a member of the Bahrain Society of Photography, and Hassan Al-Nasheet were released on 20 May after being held for five days. Al-Wasat journalist Haydar Mohamed was released on 22 May.

The trial of three of the opposition newspaper Al-Wasat’s most senior journalists – editor Mansour Al-Jamari, managing editor Walid Nouihid and local news editor Aqil Mirza – began before a criminal court on 18 May. They are accused of disseminating false information that undermined the country’s international image and reputation (http://en.rsf.org/bahraini-and-syri...). Jamari told Reuters that the prosecutors have added the charge of intending to cause instability in Bahrain, which carries a two-year sentence. They pleaded not guilty.

Jamari acknowledged to Reuters that six articles with false information did appear in Al-Wasat but he said all six were emailed to the newspaper together with bogus phone numbers from the same IP address in what appeared to be a deliberate plot to get the newspaper to publish wrong information.

Founded in 2002, Al-Wasat was banned on 3 April, one day after the national television programme “Media Watch” accused it of trying to harm Bahrain’s stability and security. The Information Affairs Authority, a government agency that regulates the media, reversed this decision and gave Al-Wasat permission to resume publishing on 4 April under new editors. The newspaper’s board initially announced that the newspaper would close, but subsequently said it would continue operating.

Another hearing that was held on 22 May in the trial of 21 human rights activists and opposition members. After witnesses gave evidence, the court adjourned until 25 May. The defendants present in court included the blogger Abduljalil Al-Singace. Fellow blogger Ali Abdulemam, regarded as one of the country’s Internet pioneers, is also a defendant but he is being tried in absentia. Despite the judge’s instructions to the contrary, it seems that most of the detainees have been in solitary confinement.

The following are still detained:
Faysal Hayyat,Ali Jawad, Abdullah Alawi and Jasem Al-Sabbagh, who were arrested after being forced to resign from the newspaper Al-Bilad.

Ali Omid, Hani Al-Tayf, Fadel Al-Marzouk, Hossein Abdalsjad Abdul Hossein Al-Abbas, Jaffar Abdalsjad Abdul Hossein Al-Abbas, Hamza Ahmed Youssef Al-Dairi and Ahmed Youssef Al-Dairi, who are all online forum administrator or moderators.

Photographer Hossein Abbas Salem.

Abbas Al-Murshid, a freelance journalist and writer who contributes to several online forums. He was arrested on 16 May.

rsf.org

France denounces the death sentence against two men in Bahrain, again

Unofficial translation from French - BCHR

STATEMENTS OF SPOKESMAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND EUROPEAN 24 May 2011

BAHRAIN - CONFIRMATION OF APPEAL DEATH SENTENCE OF TWO Bahrainis NATIONALS

France, like its European partners, is resolutely opposed to the death penalty everywhere and under all circumstances.

I remind you that we had, April 24, denounced the death sentence at trial of several people following the events of recent weeks have shocked and saddened Bahrain.

We call on the Bahraini authorities not to apply this sentence upheld on appeal by a military court against two Bahraini nationals.

It is time to seek ways of a sincere dialogue between the parties and reconciliation, the only lasting solution to the political crisis in Bahrain. Respect for fundamental freedoms and the fair administration of justice and transparency are essential to carry out such a process.

How Bahrain is oppressing its Shia majority

By: Joshua Colangelo-Bryan Published on: guardian.co.uk, Sunday 22 May 2011

Six years ago, Bahrain's parliament gave me a standing ovation. This month, the Bahraini government barred me from entering the tiny kingdom which sits off Saudi Arabia's coast and hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. While this fall from grace might seem extreme, it is easy to explain. In 2005, I was representing the Bahrainis detained at Guantánamo Bay and, with a colleague, went to Bahrain to advocate on their behalf. We emphasised that the US had denied our clients due process, had asserted that our clients had no right to humane treatment, and had inflicted abuses on certain clients, as corroborated by US government sources.

Bahraini officials welcomed us with open arms. A prominent member of parliament invited us to a session at which Guantánamo would be discussed. There, he thundered that the rights to due process and humane treatment were universal, and decried that they were being denied to his fellow Bahrainis. Pointing to us in a spectators' balcony, he said we had done more for his countrymen than anyone and offered his heartfelt gratitude. His colleagues arose in spontaneous applause.

By 2007, our Guantánamo clients had been released. Having met a number of Bahraini activists who assisted with our Guantánamo work, I naturally turned my attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain itself. At the time, Bahrain was marketing itself as a "constitutional monarchy". King Hamad, of the ruling Al-Khalifa family, had instituted some important reforms after assuming power in 1999. However, by 2007, it appeared that the government was reverting to its more repressive past, including reviving the use of torture during interrogations of national security suspects.

I worked with Human Rights Watch on an investigation into allegations of torture, and our findings were presented in a report in February 2010. The report concluded – based on witness interviews and documentary evidence, including medical reports – that security officials had, during the previous few years, suspended detainees by their limbs, used electro-shock devices, and engaged in other physical abuses. We called on Bahrain to treat detainees humanely and afford them due process.

Many of the same Bahraini officials and parliamentarians who had immediately decried the denial of these rights to my Guantánamo clients said just as quickly that the Human Rights Watch report should not be believed. Notably, the Guantánamo detainees were Sunni, as were the members of the ruling class who had spoken out on their behalf. The torture victims addressed in the report were members of Bahrain's Shia majority, who have long complained, justifiably, about political and economic discrimination.

Then, last August, things got worse. The government arrested prominent dissidents and others on vague or nonexistent charges. Allegations of torture emerged again, and defendants displayed wounds, including some I observed during court proceedings.

That was only a precursor, unfortunately, to the terrible events that began in February when Bahrainis took to the streets, peacefully demanding meaningful political participation. Security forces killed seven people and wounded hundreds. After briefly allowing demonstrations, on 14 March the security forces again crushed the protests. Martial law was declared, with the help of Saudi tanks. Killings, attacks and arrests continued thereafter.

This month, I travelled to Bahrain to investigate the situation and to meet Nabeel Rajab, a secular Shia activist who had been so instrumental to our Guantánamo work that he was with us in parliament when we received the standing ovation. Now the government is targeting him.

At immigration, the authorities told me that rather than being allowed to enter the country, I would be put on the next plane out. They said that doing the "kind of work" I did required a visa approved in advance. When I pointed out that on my numerous prior trips to Bahrain to do that "kind of work", I had got a visa on arrival, they told me that "things have changed".

Indeed, things have changed. I once advocated due process and humane treatment on behalf of Bahrainis who happened to be Sunni. Now, I am advocating due process and humane treatment on behalf of Bahrainis who happen to be Shia, largely. While the Bahraini government celebrated such principles six years ago as applied to my Guantánamo clients, it cannot countenance them now as applied to a majority of its own people, who are the subject of a massive crackdown.

As for me, my days of standing ovations in Bahrain appear to be over. In fact, my days in Bahrain appear to be over, period.

guardian.co.uk

Freedom House Condemns Death Sentences in Bahrain

Washington May 24, 2011

Freedom House condemns the death sentences of two Bahraini citizens upheld by a special appeals court on Sunday, and calls upon authorities to take measures to ensure the rights of citizens to due process and to end its efforts to persecute those who have demonstrated for political reform.

An appeals court upheld the conviction of Ali Abdullah Hassan Alsingace and Abdul Aziz Abdul Redha Ibrahim Hussein, who were charged along with five others with killing two police officers during anti-government protests that swept the country in the weeks after the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. The original sentence was handed down by the National Safety Court, which was created by royal decree. More than 400 detainees have been referred to National Safety Courts, of which 312 were later released. No information is available on those still detained and they have not been permitted contact with families or legal counsel.

“The lack of due process in Bahrain is disturbing. Authorities have arbitrarily prosecuted protesters but have failed to investigate those responsible for the deaths of protesters,” said David J. Kramer, executive director at Freedom House. “President Obama last week spoke out against mass arrests and brute force against peaceful protesters in Bahrain and called for dialogue between the Bahraini government and the opposition. He now needs to ratchet up the pressure on the Bahraini government to begin such a dialogue and to respect the human and political right of all Bahraini citizens.”

The Bahraini government has continued to crack down on pro-reform protests. Today, teargas grenades were fired into the home of the prominent human rights activist and critic of the government, Nabeel Rajab. Several protesters have died in custody under suspicious circumstances; traditional and online journalists have been deported, arrested, held incommunicado, and some were reportedly tortured; and medical professionals have been unfairly arrested for treating some and “not saving” others. Additionally, many who protested have been threatened, lost their jobs or homes, or been prevented from continuing their studies.

Bahrain is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.

For more information on Bahrain, visit: Freedom in the World 2011: Bahrain Freedom on the Net 2011: Bahrain Freedom of the Press 2010: Bahrain

freedomhouse.org

Human Rights First: Bahrain Responds to Obama Speech by Continuing Crackdown

23 May 2011 Washington, D.C. — Bahraini authorities have reacted to President Obama’s May 19 speech, in which he urged the Bahraini government to “create the conditions for dialogue,” and made clear that “the United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region,” by continuing their brutal crackdown. On Saturday 21, the home of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab was attacked, and the following day two death sentences were confirmed against two young Shiite men, Ali AlSingace and AbdulAziz AbdulRedha, who had been convicted in a secret military trial on April 28 for the alleged murder of two policemen.

Their trial fell far short of international standards. Bahraini TV aired video of the convicted men confessing to the murder of the policemen—confessions that may have been extracted by use of torture. Human Rights First has found many credible reports from Bahraini protesters detained by the security forces being subjected to beatings and other forms of torture. There are serious questions about these confessions and allegations.

“The U.S. should condemn these sentences and take further steps to pressure Bahrain to end its continuing crackdown,” said Brian Dooley of HRF. “It should seek to send observers to the military trials, should appoint an Ambassador to Bahrain, and should criticize specific human rights violations in Bahrain by name, including torture, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and attacks on human rights defenders.”

Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), told Human Rights First, “For the second time in a few weeks, my family’s house was attacked early morning today (Saturday) by gas bombs while the whole family was sleeping. Today’s attack was different because the gas bombs were shot by a gun into the house, purposely breaking the window of my brother’s, Nader Rajab, section where he lives with his family. We had very frightening moments rescuing my brother and his wife and his daughter as they were close to serious suffocation. This is an attempt to murder a member of my family to pressure me to stop my human rights activities. Thank God the gas bombs fell on the tile and not the carpet, which could have caused fire and could have killed the whole family while they were asleep.”

Earlier this month, Human Rights First published a report on human rights defenders critique of the U.S. government’s response to the Bahraini crackdown. The complete report and recommendations can be found here.

www.humanrightsfirst.org

Amnesty International: Bahrain must commute protesters’ death sentences

23 May 2011 The Bahraini authorities must overturn death sentences imposed on two activists for the alleged killing of two police officers during anti-government demonstrations earlier this year, Amnesty International said today.

Bahrain’s National Safety Appeals Court confirmed the death sentences against ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Hassan al-Sankis and ‘Abdelaziz ‘Abdelridha Ibrahim Hussain on Sunday. The court commuted the death sentences of two other men accused with them to life imprisonment.

“The confirmation of the death sentences imposed on these two men is nothing short of alarming. While the Bahraini government has a responsibility to protect the public and bring to justice those responsible for committing violent crimes, the government must not let these executions go ahead.

“The death penalty is the ultimate form of cruel and inhuman treatment and ought not to be used under any circumstances”

“We are urging King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa not to sign the execution order for these two protesters, and to commute their sentences without delay”, said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“To execute these two men would represent an irrevocable step and it would plunge Bahrain into an even deeper human rights crisis than it is experiencing now.”

The two men were convicted, with three others, of the premeditated murder of two policemen by running them over with a vehicle on 16 March.

That day, the security forces launched a fierce new crackdown on anti-government protests following the King’s declaration of a state of emergency, termed the State of National Safety – on 15 March, after bringing in Saudi Arabian troops to help quell the protests.

Although they are civilians, the five accused were tried in closed session before the National Safety Court, a special military court.

The two men could be executed within days if their sentences are upheld by Bahrain’s Court of Cassation, which considers only procedural technicalities, and ratified by the King.

Executions in Bahrain are normally by firing squad.

In a separate development, a leading human rights activist said tear gas canisters had been thrown into his home endangering his family.

Nabeel Rajab, director of the banned Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said tear gas bombs thrown into his house in the early hours of Saturday morning brought his brother, wife and daughter close to suffocation before they could be helped to safety.

Saturday’s was the second attack on Nabeel al Rajab's home in a matter of weeks. In April, tear gas was thrown into his own and his mother's home, apparently by members of the security forces or people acting on their behalf. No-one has been arrested for that attack.

The authorities have banned Nabeel Rajab from travelling outside the country on account of his role in exposing and campaigning against human rights violations in Bahrain.

Amnesty International is urging the Bahraini government to independently investigate this latest attack on Nabeel Rajab and to lift all restrictions on him.

www.amnesty.org

The Observatory: Attack against Mr. Nabeel Rajab's house

23 May 2011

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that the house of Mr. Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Secretary General of FIDH, was attacked by tear gas on May 21, 2011. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Bahrain.

Description of the situation:

According to the information received, in the early morning of May 21, 2011, while the whole Rajab family was still asleep, tear-gas bombs were shot into the house, breaking the window where Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s brother, Nader Rajab, lives with his family. Nobody could see the attackers. The family had to rescue Mr. Nader Rajab, his wife and daughter who were suffocating in the room.

The Observatory fears that this attack against Mr. Nabeel Rajab’s house was launched in order to pressure him to stop his human rights activities. Mr. Rajab did not file a complaint for fear of reprisals.

The Observatory recalls that in March 2011 Mr. Nabeel Rajab had been abducted and abused by the police forces. After more than one hour of physical and psychological abuse, the police drove him back home.

Actions requested:

The Observatory urges the authorities of Bahrain to:

i. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Nabeel Rajab and his family as well as all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

ii. Order a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances of the above-mentioned events in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;

iii. Put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative level, against Mr. Nabeel Rajab as well as against all human rights defenders in Bahrain;

iv. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular :

its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;

and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Bahrain.

Addresses:

· Cheikh Hamad bin Issa AL KHALIFA , King of Bahrain, Fax: +973 176 64 587

· Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tel: +973 172 27 555; Fax : +973 172 12 6032

· Cheikh Khalid bin Ali AL KHALIFA, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Tel: +973 175 31 333; Fax: +973 175 31 284

· Permanent Mission of Bahrain to the United Nations in Geneva, 1 chemin Jacques-Attenville, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, CP 39, 1292 Chambésy, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 758 96 50. Email: info@bahrain-mission.ch

Please also write to diplomatic representations of Bahrain in your respective countries.

www.fidh.org

EU Council conclusions on Bahrain

3091st FOREIGN AFFAIRS Council meeting Brussels, 23 May 2011

The Council adopted the following conclusions:

"The Council remains seriously concerned by the situation in Bahrain.

The European Union is particularly concerned about the imminent risk of execution of two Bahraini nationals recently sentenced to death. The EU is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances and calls on the Bahraini authorities to reinstate the de facto moratorium on capital punishment that prevailed until 2006. These death sentences risk further exacerbating recent tensions in Bahrain; as such, they present an obstacle to national reconciliation.

The European Union strongly encourages Bahrain to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, and accountability regarding allegations of human rights violations including reported cases of torture and ill-treatment. The EU also encourages fair and transparent administration of justice including in cases involving charges against medical professionals. Access for independent observers to ongoing legal proceedings should be allowed.

The EU welcomes the decree issued by King Hamad of Bahrain, according to which the state of emergency will be lifted on 1 June. We look forward to the practical actions which will support this move.

The EU once again urges all parties to engage rapidly in meaningful dialogue with a view to bringing about reforms which offer real prospects for successfully addressing the country’s challenges."

www.consilium.europa.eu