IFJ Calls for End to Intimidation Campaign against Journalists in Bahrain
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the widespread intimidation campaign targeting journalists who work for newspapers which are critical of the Bahraini government.
The IFJ accuses the authorities of systematic harassment of media in the wake of recent anti-government protests and says that at least 68 journalists working for two leading Bahraini newspapers, Al Wasat and Al Bilad, have been singled out for sacking, arrests and charges for treason. Others were forced into exile to escape arrest in the on-going clampdown.
“There is an appalling campaign to silence dissent in Bahrain and journalists have become the prime targets,” said Jim Boumelha. “The authorities are resorting to interference in media affairs and blatant intimidation to control information and stifle independent reporting. This must be exposed and resisted.”
Reports say that the Bahraini authorities have embarked on a hunt of the government’s critics and arrested several journalists, on allegations of betraying the country. One report on the media crackdown in Bahrain entitled ‘ Journalists in Bahrain: The murder of Free Speech and the Siege of Freedom’ says that those arrested include the Al Wasat reporter Haidar Mohammad and blogger Zakariya Al Oushayri who is reported to be one of the two journalists who died while in detention.
More journalists were sacked from their jobs after management of public and private media in Bahrain, particularly Al Wasat and Al Bilad newspapers, came under severe political pressure, including banning advertising in Al Wasat, to get rid of staff members who opposed political interference. Senior journalist Mansour Al Jamry, editor –in-chief of Al Wasat and his colleagues Walid Nuwayhid, the paper’s editing manager and Akil Mirza, member of the Bahraini Journalists Association (BJA), an IFJ affiliate, lost their jobs in this campaign which affected at least 68 media staff, according to the report.
Mansour will go on trial this week along with three other senior staff charged with publishing false information about the police crackdown, a charge which carries a one-year prison sentence, media reports say.
The IFJ is deeply concerned by the situation of the Bahraini journalists who have been caught up in this crackdown, whether they are in detention, awaiting trial or on the run in exile and calls on the government to rescind all measures which violate the rights and the independence of media.
“We urge the authorities to re-establish the climate of respect for press freedom which the right of the public to accurate information requires, “added Boumelha.
“This won’t happen unless and until all detained journalists are set free, outstanding warrants of arrest and charges cancelled, the ban on advertising in Al Wasat lifted, journalists who have been unfairly dismissed reinstated and an independent commission of inquiry set up to investigate reports of journalists’ deaths in detention.”
In the meantime, the massive dismissals of workers suspected of involvement in the anti-government protests have prompted the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to warn the Bahraini government that these measures threaten to tarnish the country’s record of “progressive policies towards labour in the Gulf region”. The organisation has, however, welcomed the decision to establish a joint committee to review all dismissals.
“Bahrain stands out as a country with an independent trade union movement,” ILO Deputy Director General Guy Ryder told Al-Jazeera. “The ILO is doing whatever it can with the government and other social partners to find a way forward so that people can return to their jobs.”