Reporters Without Borders

Predators


King Hamad Ben Aissa Al Khalifa

Since the start of the country’s pro-democracy movement in February last year, the government has tried to control news about the protests and the excesses of police and troops towards the protesters by using a formidable array of weapons.

Foreign journalists have been arrested and deported, and others have encountered severe difficulties in obtaining entry visas, Bahrainis wanting to tell foreign news organizations what is happening have been threatened.

Free-speech activists have been hounded and prosecuted, photographers, bloggers and netizens arrested (one of them dying in prison), journalists forced to resign from the main opposition paper and called before the state prosecutor, and publication of any news about ongoing investigations by the military prosecutor banned for supposed national security reasons.

The media blackout has been accompanied by a big regime propaganda campaign, through media it controls, against major protest leaders, who are dubbed traitors or terrorists.

Free-speech activists have been hounded and prosecuted, photographers, bloggers and netizens arrested (one of them dying in prison), journalists forced to resign from the main opposition paper and called before the state prosecutor, and printing any news about ongoing investigations by the military prosecutor banned for supposed national security reasons. The media blackout has been accompanied by a big regime propaganda campaign, through media it controls, against major protest leaders, who are dubbed traitors or terrorists.

After the state of emergency was lifted and a “national dialogue” launched, a report published by an inquiry commission last November concluded that the security forces were guilty of serious human rights violations. The authorities have committed themselves to undertake some reforms, but too little is being done. The seven-year prison sentences imposed on two police officers implicated in the death in detention of the blogger Zakariya Rashid Hassan Al-Ashiri in April last year are derisory.

Journalists and bloggers convicted by military tribunal during the popular uprising have not had their cases reviewed by civilian courts despite a public commitment by the authorities to do so. Such is the case of the blogger Abdeljalil Al-Singace, director and spokesman of the Al-Haq Movement’s Human Rights Bureau, who was arrested in March last year.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the uprising in February, many foreign journalists were refused entry visas. This occurred again in April at the time of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix. This was clearly aimed at restricting the number of inconvenient witnesses to the demonstrations and their suppression.

Hamad Ben Aissa Al Khalifa, as king of Bahrain, is responsible for the violence and abuses.

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