Bahrain suspends Al-Jazeera operations indefinitely

New York, May 19, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the decision by the Bahraini government to indefinitely suspend Al-Jazeera from reporting from the Gulf kingdom

On Tuesday, Bahrain’s Ministry of Culture and Information decided to “temporarily freeze the activities of the Bahrain bureau of the Qatari satellite news channel Al-Jazeera for having violated professional norms and for failing to observe laws and procedures regulating journalism, printing and publishing,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency. The statement went on to say that the suspension would remain in place until a decision is reached that would ensure that Bahraini media can operate in Qatar.

The ministry’s decision comes just one day after Al-Jazeera aired a program about poverty in Bahrain. On Tuesday, the same day the ban was announced, Bahraini authorities denied entry into the country to an Al-Jazeera crew who had come to interview a former United Nations official who was visiting, the news channel reported. Al-Jazeera noted that the freeze includes both the station’s Arabic- and English-language channels as well as the activities of the station’s Bahrain-based online correspondent.  

“We are dismayed to see Bahrain attempt to muzzle the media simply because it does not like what is being reported,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Citing a lack of reciprocity from Qatari authorities for Bahraini media is not justification for these disturbing actions.”

Bahrain has banned Al-Jazeera from reporting from the island kingdom in the past. In May 2002, Bahrain’s then-minister of information accused Al-Jazeera of “deliberately seeking to harm Bahrain” and banned it from reporting. The ban lasted for five years, until it was lifted in 2007.