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Bahrain Partially Suspends Alwasat, Only Independent Newspaper

17 January 2017 - Bahrain’s Ministry of Information Affairs (MIA) yesterday issued an order to suspend the only independent newspaper in the country, Alwasat, from using electronic media tools, effectively suspending its online presence. The order comes a day day after the execution of three torture victims, and on the day the trial of journalist Nazeeha Saeed started for “unlicensed journalism”.. We, the undersigned NGOs, condemn the attack on the freedom of the press, and the ongoing harassment to the Alwasat newspaper.

The MIA alleges that Al-Wasat has been "inciting spirit of division and harming national unity," but  provided no further basis for this accusation. The MIA ban is partial, and Alwasat’s print edition has not been suspended from publication. The MIA’s action and reasoning unreasonably restrict the newspaper’s expression and the freedom of the press. AlWasat is the only newspaper in Bahrain that led its 16 January print edition with frontpage headlines of the 15 January execution. The  Alwasat’s article featured photos of the executed victims, along with views of the independent local and international NGOs, and reporting on the popular reaction on the streets.

Alwasat frontpage on 16 Jan 2017

Despite harassments, Alwasat newspaper have been active in covering the local news with independent views to certain limits, and had a wide reach. Alwasat’s website is consistently ranked among the most popular websites in Bahrain, and in January 2017 was the highest-ranking site in the country, according to ranking site Alexa.

The suppression of Alwasat’s online edition came a day after Bahrain executed Ali Al-Singace (21), Abbas Al-Samea (27) and Sami Mushaima (42) by firing squad, the first political execution in Bahrain since 1996. The three were convicted on anti-terrorism charges in an unfair trial based on evidence extracted under condition of torture. The trial and appeals hearings lacked basic fair trial guarantees, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions has condemned their executions as “extrajudicial killings.”

Alwasat, established 2002, is the only newspaper in Bahrain financially and editorially independent from the state, and has been the subject to ongoing and repeated acts of harassment in the past few years. In 2010, it was banned from broadcasting audio reports and interviews on its website. In April 2011, the MIA suspended the newspaper from publishing for a day , and only allowed it to resume operations after the resignation of senior editorial staff, including its editor-in-chief, Dr. Mansoor Al Jamri, and their replacement with pro-government staff; the company’s board later reinstated the editor-in-chief. . Karim Al-Fakhrawi, a businessman and co-founder of Alwasat, was arrested in April 2011 and died under the custody of the National Security Agency (NSA) under conditions of torture. The NSA, which was stripped of law enforcement powers in November 2011, recently had its powers reinstated.

In 2015, the MIA suspended the newspaper a second time for two days, allegedly because the paper had not to used the term “martyrs” in a report on Bahraini military casualties in Yemen. In January 2016, the MIA banned newspapers from using youtube for video reports, and Alwasat was forced to close its video section until August 2016, when the MOIA legislated to regulate newspaper video content. This regulation includes a 2-minute length limit to videos and registration of the operating staff with the MIA. Several of the newspapers editors and columnist have faced prosecutions for their posts over the years.

The repeated suspension of the newspaper and this latest suspension put the newspaper at significant financial risk as it is deprived of revenues from online advertising and subscriptions to its online archive. Inducing financial pressures on Alwasat will contribute to the restriction of media freedoms in Bahrain. In 2010, another independent newspaper, Al-Waqt, had to close doors due to financial difficulties caused by lack of advertisement aid

Bahrain’s restrictions of media freedoms have been even wider reaching. Bahrain has denied multiple Bahraini reporters working for foreign news outlets from renewing their annual foreign correspondence licenses, restricting their work, and denied entry to even more independent reporters. The blocking of the only independent newspaper’s website will contribute to a media blackout on Bahrain news from reaching to the outside world and undermine the freedom of speech and expression in the country.
 

Based on the above, we urge the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Cancel immediately the decision to suspend Al-Wasat newspaper from using electronic media and allow it to use all means of information transfer and sharing.  
  • Stop the continuous targeting of journalists and to guarantee a healthy environment for them to exercise their duty to the fullest, without pressure or intimidation; allowing entry of foreign reporters and the resumption of work for Bahraini staff of foreign media outlets.
  • Show full respect for the freedom of the press, and repeal the laws that restrict the peaceful exercise to the right to freedom of expression, in line with Bahrain’s obligations under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Signed,

Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights

Foreign Secretary comments following the execution of three men in Bahrain

Foreign Secretary comments following the execution of three men in Bahrain.

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:

"The UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty, and it is our longstanding position to oppose capital sentences in all circumstances. The Bahraini authorites are fully aware of our position and I have raised the issue with the Bahraini Government."

Read the Statement Here.

Bahrain executes three Shia men in first death sentences since 2010

Britain is facing calls to loosen its ties with Bahrain after three Shia Muslim men convicted of killing an Emirati police officer and two Bahraini police officers in a 2014 bomb attack were executed.

The death sentences on Sunday were the first to be carried out in Bahrain since 2010, and protesters claimed that confessions were extracted under torture.

Read More Here.

Reprieve: Boris Johnson's Bahrain response 'woefully inadequate'

International human rights organization Reprieve has criticised the response of the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to Bahrain’s execution this morning of three men.

The three men, Ali Al-Singace (21), Abbas Al-Samea (27) and Sami Mushaima (42), were executed by firing squad after being convicted on the basis of forced ‘confessions’.

Read More Here.

Bahraini authorities execute three Shia Muslim men convicted of killing an Emirati police

 

Bahrain on Sunday executed three Shia Muslim men convicted of killing three policemen in a 2014 bomb attack, the first such executions in over two decades, drawing condemnation from foreign officials in the region and beyond.

Activists in Bahrain reacted with rage to the move, calling it a "black day" for the Gulf Arab kingdom' and posting images of protesters clashing with police on social media. 

The executions came less than a week after the country's highest court confirmed the punishment against Abbas al-Samea, 27, Sami Mushaima, 42, and Ali al-Singace, 21, found guilty of killing one Emirati and two Bahraini police officers.

Read More Here.

ahrain on Sunday executed three Shia Muslim men convicted of killing three policemen in a 2014 bomb attack, the first such executions in over two decades, drawing condemnation from foreign officials in the region and beyond.

Activists in Bahrain reacted with rage to the move, calling it a "black day" for the Gulf Arab kingdom' and posting images of protesters clashing with police on social media. 

The executions came less than a week after the country's highest court confirmed the punishment against Abbas al-Samea, 27, Sami Mushaima, 42, and Ali al-Singace, 21, found guilty of killing one Emirati and two Bahraini police officers.

Bahrain City Hall Set Ablaze, Gunfire Heard After Executions

Bahrain says a city hall was set ablaze during a night of clashes between police and protesters following the execution of three men convicted of a deadly bombing targeting police.

Bahrain's Interior Ministry said Monday the blaze at the Northern City Hall appeared intentional. It said firefighters were able to contain it.

Hundreds protested Sunday over the three Shiite men put to death by firing squad over the 2014 bombing that killed two Bahraini policemen and an Emirati officer.

Opponents of Bahrain's Sunni-ruled kingdom saw the men's charges as politically motivated and alleged the men were tortured.

Read More Here.

European Union: Statement by the spokesperson on the executions carried out in Bahrain

It was confirmed earlier today that the Kingdom of Bahrain carried out the execution of three people convicted for a bomb attack against the police which killed 3 policemen.  

The EU reiterates its strong opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. This case is a serious drawback given that Bahrain had suspended executions for the past seven years, and concerns have been expressed about possible violations of the right to a fair process for the three convicted. 

The EU rejects violence as a political tool and fully supports the stability and development of the Kingdom of Bahrain, but believes this can only be achieved through a sustainable and inclusive national reconciliation process.

Read More Here.

Bahrain Executes 3 Over Police Bombing, Triggering Protests

Bahrain on Sunday carried out its first executions since an Arab Spring uprising rocked the country in 2011, putting to death three men found guilty of a deadly bomb attack on police.
 
The executions of the Shiite men drew swift condemnation from the human rights groups and sparked intense protests by opponents of the Sunni-ruled government, who see the charges as politically motivated. Activists allege that testimony used against the condemned men was obtained through torture. 
 
Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in several predominantly Shiite communities to protest the executions. 
 
Read More Here.

Amnesty International: Bahrain, First executions in more than six years a shocking blow to Human Rights

In response to the execution today of three men accused of killing three police officers in Bahrain Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Campaigns in Beirut, Samah Hadid said:

“This is a dark day for human rights in Bahrain. These executions – the first to be carried out since 2010 - are a deeply regressive step for a country whose authorities’ have repeatedly trumpeted their commitment to human rights. 

Read More Here.