April 7, 2009
King of Bahrain
C/o The Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
International Drive, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to protest the recent deterioration of press freedom in Bahrain and your government’s ongoing campaign against critical or opposition Web sites and blogs. The crackdown against those sites has resulted in dozens of them being blocked inside the kingdom, according to local and international human rights and press freedom watchdogs.
CPJ is concerned about a campaign targeting independent or critical Web sites that discuss
Authorities have described their campaign as one against pornographic
Freedom of expression advocates have argued that before this order was issued, Web
On February 11, the Ministry of Culture and Information told Reuters that some Web sites had been
For example, the Google Translation service has been blocked for the last three months, sources told CPJ. Abduljalil Alsingace, who blogs at alsingace.katib.org, told CPJ that his blog was blocked on February 10, after he posted a petition by an international group of intellectuals. Among the demands of the petition was the lifting of a travel ban on Alsingace. Alsingace migrated his entries to alsingace.blogspot.com. Both of his blogs remain inaccessible inside Bahrain, he told CPJ. Mahmood al-Yusef’s blog, Mahmood’s Den, which covers political and social issues among its topics, has been blocked for years within the country.
Most sources told CPJ that forums that discuss cultural, social, or political matters perceived as sensitive by the government are the most targeted Web sites. The political forum Multaqa al-Bahrain, the cultural
CPJ believes that Web sites and blogs must
These acts of censorship contradict multiple provisions of the Bahraini Constitution, which guarantees the right of freedom of expression. They are also in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain ratified in 2006, which guarantees the freedom “to seek, receive, and impart information.”
CPJ also wants to draw your attention to two lawsuits that have recently been filed by government agencies against two independent journalists.
Maryam al-Shrooqi, a journalist for the independent daily al-Wasat, is on trial for writing an article titled “Fake governmental advertisements” on August 27, 2008. The article examines hiring discrimination at the Department of Civil Services supposedly based on religious affiliation. Al-Shrooqi told CPJ that her article was based on interviews with multiple sources. Nevertheless, in December 2008, the Department of Civil Services filed a criminal lawsuit against al-Shrooqi for “insulting” it. Initially she faced two additional charges of “fabricating lies” and “defaming” the Department of Civil Services, although those charges have since been dropped, al-Shrooqi told CPJ.
Al-Shrooqi said that she was advised by officials close to the department to apologize and reveal the identity of her sources to avoid legal action, but she refused. She has appeared in court four times so far and her next hearing is scheduled for April 8, she told CPJ. If convicted, al-Shrooqi could be banned from writing, fined or imprisoned, she said.
In a separate though equally alarming case, Lamees Dhaif, a columnist with the private daily al-
CPJ believes that both legal proceedings contradict the spirit of an October 2008 speech by Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa in which he encouraged the media to “benefit from the climate of democracy and freedom available in the Kingdom of Bahrain” and “truthfully speak on behalf of Bahrain’s society, mirroring the reality of its daily life and contributing with neutrality and objectivity to the search for adequate solutions to its problems.”
We respectfully call on Your Majesty to direct the Ministry of Culture and Information to annul the ministerial
Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to your reply.