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Bahrain


A Bahraini boy holds a sign protesting the December 2012 arrest of freelance photographer Ahmed Humaidan. (AFP/Mohammed al-Shaikh)

New York, March 26, 2014--Today's conviction of freelance photographer Ahmed Humaidan is an attempt by Bahraini authorities to censor independent and dissident voices in the lead-up to the Formula One race in April, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Humaidan, who has been imprisoned since December 2012, was sentenced to 10 years in jail, according to news reports. 

Anti-government protesters take cover from teargas fired by riot police in the village of Daih on March 3. (Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed)

Thursday, the official Bahrain News Agency announced the "final 30-day countdown [to] the Formula One extravaganza" to take place the first week of April. Every year the race acts as a lightning rod for criticism of the Bahraini government, which seeks to use high-profile international events like the F1 to gloss over human rights violations in the country.

Three years ago, hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis descended to the streets to demand change. A harsh government crackdown and the turn to violence by some protesters have since dampened the hope lit on February 14, 2011. In this context, we asked Bahrainis and Bahrain observers on Twitter how they think the status of press freedom has changed in the country. We know what we think: The Bahraini government has fallen terribly short of its own rhetoric of reform. But we wanted to hear directly from those who work and live in Bahrain every day.

Below is a Storify of some of the answers we received. 

Despite King Hamad’s praise for the press as the “cornerstone of human rights and a mirror of our fledgling democracy,” the Bahraini government continued to crack down on anyone challenging the official narrative. Journalists covering opposition protests were harassed, detained, and deported, while some were attacked by opposition protesters who considered them biased. The government arrested at least three bloggers and photographers in the lead-up to a major opposition protest on August 14. A court upheld the acquittal of a policewoman accused of torturing a journalist in 2011. Authorities continued to clamp down on online expression by blocking websites, infiltrating social media accounts, prosecuting citizens who insulted officials, and considering restrictions on Internet-based telecommunications services. Bahraini blogger Ali Abdel Imam, convicted on anti-state charges, was forced to flee into exile after hiding for two years from Bahraini authorities.

This photo of an anti-government protester by Ahmed Al-Fardan won first place in Freedom House's annual photo contest in April 2013. (Ahmed Al-Fardan)

New York, December 27, 2013--Ahmed Al-Fardan, photographer for the NurPhoto agency, was arrested Thursday at his home in Bahrain, according to his agency, news reports, and human rights groups. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest.

Masked protesters carry portraits of Ahmed Ismail Hassan at a demonstration in Salmabad village, south of Manama, Bahrain, April 10, 2013. (Reuters)

On the night he was shot, Ahmed Ismail Hassan al Samadi was working. Protestors had gathered along a highway near his home in a small Bahraini village. With his handheld camcorder, Ahmed filmed as they marched. He filmed as security forces arrived in marked and unmarked cars. The citizen journalist had tens of hours of footage of scenes just like this from a year of ongoing demonstrations that began at the height of the Arab Spring. With one bullet, his filming came to an end.

New York, August 1, 2013--A Bahraini blogger has been detained and a photographer is missing amid signs that Bahraini authorities are trying to crack down on critical voices ahead of protests planned for August 14, according to news reports.

Ali Abdel Imam (AP/Hasan Jamali)

For two years, Bahrainis have been asking "Where is Ali Abdel Imam?" And now finally, they have an answer.

The prominent opposition blogger suddenly emerged from hiding last week, announcing he had been granted asylum in the United Kingdom, news sources reported. 

He had not been heard from since March 17, 2011, when he cryptically tweeted, "I get tired from my phone so I switched it of no need for rumors plz." The Bahraini government had just declared a state of emergency, as massive reform protests rocked the island country. Abdel Imam, who had already been arrested twice before for his work, feared the government would arrest him again in an impending crackdown. So when they came for him the following day, Abdel Imam made sure he wasn't there. He had not been heard from since--until last week.

New York, April 19, 2013--The Bahraini government ordered three journalists from the British television network ITV to leave the country today, according to news reports citing an ITV spokesman. The journalists, who were also briefly detained on Thursday, are in the process of leaving the country.

A Bahraini anti-government protester carries a sign with the picture of a jailed photographer during a march in Karranah, Bahrain, on Friday. (AP/Hasan Jamali)

The Bahraini press, like almost everything else in the island country, is sharply divided. If the government would take steps to strengthen press freedom instead of restricting access, then much of this divide could be bridged.

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Killed in Bahrain

3 journalists killed since 1992

Attacks on the Press 2012

1 Journalist imprisoned on December 1, a blogger serving a life term.

Country data, analysis »

Contact

Middle East
and North Africa

Program Coordinator:
Sherif Mansour

Research Associate:
Jason Stern

smansour@cpj.org
jstern@cpj.org

Tel: +1 (212) 300-9018,
+1 (212) 300-9017
Fax: 212-465-9568

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فيسبوك : لجنة حماية الصحفيين بالعربية

Blog: Sherif Mansour
Blog: Jason Stern