Bahrain arrests critical journalist

May 17, 2012 6:07 PM ET

New York, May 17, 2012--A journalist who criticized Bahrain's proposed union with Saudi Arabia was seized from his home near Manama on Wednesday and his whereabouts are unknown. The Committee to Protect Journalists called today for his immediate release.

Ahmed Radhi, a freelance journalist who contributes to local news websites, was arrested by security forces at 4 a.m. after they broke down his door, according to news reports. His condition and any charges against him are unknown, news reports said.

Radhi was arrested in the wake of comments he made during media interviews on Monday and Tuesday criticizing a proposed union of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, his family members told the London-based Bahrain Press Association. The journalist posted his comments from an interview on Monday with BBC Arabic Radio on his Twitter and Facebook accounts, saying that such a union would justify the occupation of Bahrain by Saudi troops, which were sent in March 2011 to stifle popular protests.

The journalist previously worked for the pro-government daily Al-Ayyam and as a correspondent for the Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar TV before the government withdrew his accreditation, the reports said. Since then he has been writing on his own blog, "Silahi Qalami," (My weapon is my pen), reporting through his Twitter account, writing for news websites, and appearing as a commentator on several Arabic-language satellite channels.

"Bahraini authorities are waging a campaign of intimidation against critical journalists, and Ahmed Radhi appears to be the most recent victim," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Authorities should release him immediately and end their effort to silence dissenting views."

In a separate development, the government said it will take measures against social media users who post false or insulting statements about the regime, Al-Ayyam reported on Monday. The pro-government daily said a committee will be formed to oversee the task, but didn't name other steps to be taken. Manama is increasingly sensitive to the use of social media. Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist who was arrested on May 5, is being tried for "inciting illegal rallies and marches online by using social networking websites," relating to comments he posted on his Twitter account, according to news reports.

CPJ research shows that in the past 15 months, independent and opposition journalists in Bahrain have endured the worst conditions since King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa assumed the throne in 1999. CPJ has documented three journalist deaths, including a shooting death last month; dozens of detentions; arbitrary deportations; government-sponsored billboards and advertisements smearing journalists; and numerous physical assaults.

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