Reporters Without Borders is launching a campaign and a petition condemning the appallingly repressive policies of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa’s government since the start of the Arab spring and its current propaganda focus on the Formula One Grand Prix that is to be held in Bahrain from 20 to 22 April.
Foreign reporters have been banned from entering the country since pro-democracy protests began in February 2011. Netizens and journalists, especially photographers, are systematically harassed when they go to demonstrations. There have been countless cases of violence, imprisonment, prosecutions and convictions targeting journalists.
According to the London-based Bahrain Press Association, there have been more than 140 cases of arrests, torture or dismissals of journalists since February 2011. Torture of detainees is widely practiced. Smear campaigns are waged against human rights activists. Two netizens and a media owner have died for defending the right to report the news.
Website filtering has been widened in order to block all content linked to the street demonstrations. Streaming websites that allow video to be streamed in real-time have been blocked. Suppressing photos and video of the unrest has become a question of survival for the regime. It does not want any information about the protests and its brutal crackdown to get out. Nothing must be allowed to alert the international community.
With the direct help of several Gulf neighbours and thanks to the international community’s astonishing silence, the regime is at the same time trying to improve its image and is stepping up diplomatic and public relations initiatives designed to portray Bahrain as a model of political stability and social progress. Let’s prevent any victory for censorship.