May 13, 2002
His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa
C/o H.E. Ambassador Shaikh Khalifa Bin Ali al-Khalifa
3502 International Drive, NW
Embassy of the State of Bahrain
Washington, DC 20008
Via facsimile: 202-362-2192
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to protest the Bahraini government’s recent decision to bar the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera from covering your country’s May 9 municipal elections.
On May 10, Minster of Information Nabil al-Hamr told journalists that Al-Jazeera’s correspondents had been barred from Bahrain. Al-Hamr claimed that the station “harms Bahrain and Bahrain’s citizens” and was a medium for “Zionist infiltration in the Gulf region.” He added that the Kingdom would not “deal with (Al-Jazeera) in the present or the future.”
Prior to al-Hamr’s announcement, Bahraini authorities had ignored visa and accreditation requests from an Al-Jazeera correspondent who tried to visit Bahrain from Doha in early May, according to staff at Al-Jazeera.
In February, Your Majesty said in an address to the nation that political reforms now underway in Bahrain, including the upcoming parliamentary elections slated for October, were being carried out in order to “resume democracy as soon as possible for the welfare and prosperity of Bahrain.” Your government is sending precisely the opposite message by denying journalists access to an important news story such as last week’s municipal elections.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, we view the ban against Al-Jazeera as a step backward for press freedom in Bahrain. We urge you to ensure that the ban is lifted immediately so that Al-Jazeera may resume its coverage of Bahrain without further interference.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your reply.