Bahrain arrests photographer who documented dissent

New York, January 9, 2013–Bahraini authorities should drop charges they have filed against a photojournalist in connection with his coverage of anti-government protests in April, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Police arrested Ahmed Humaidan on December 29 and charged him with “demonstrating illegally” and “using violence to assault police and damage public properties” during the demonstrations on the island of Sitra, where Humaidan lived, according to news reports. Against the backdrop of Bahrain’s Formula One race last April, several thousand protesters demonstrated against human rights violations by the government, news reports said.

Humaidan, a freelance photographer, has covered protests in the country since the 2011 uprising. His photographs have been published by local opposition sites including the online newsmagazine Alhadath and the online news site Alrasid.

Humaidan’s family members told CPJ that the journalist had been in custody for more than a week, but that they were allowed to see him for only a half-hour on Sunday. They said Humaidan was not granted access to his lawyer. News accounts reported that the photographer is scheduled to be in the High Criminal Court of Al-Wasta province on January 15.

Adel Marzouk, head of the Bahrain Press Association, an independent media freedom organization based in London, told CPJ that Humaidan’s photographs had often exposed police attacks on protesters during demonstrations. Humaidan’s family said that authorities had sought his arrest for months and had raided their home five times in recent months in an attempt to arrest him, news reports said.

Bahrain has restricted critical reporting and independent news coverage since the uprising in 20111. Despite King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s pledge to uphold press freedom and reform, conditions have not improved. A journalist was detained for months after criticizing a proposed union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and a well-known videographer was killed while filming a pro-reform protest in March of last year.

“We are very concerned about the detention of Ahmed Humaidan, who has documented official abuses by Bahraini police against protesters,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The Bahraini government has consistently targeted journalists in an effort to suppress such coverage. We call for Humaidan’s immediate release.”

The Arab Network for Human Rights, a regional human rights organization, said on Sunday that Bahraini authorities had taken several steps against journalists in recent months in order to suppress coverage of protests. The organization cited Humaidan’s arrest, as well as the arrest of photographer Mazen Mahdi and the denial of entry to U.S. journalist Nicholas Kristof.

  • For more data and analysis on Bahrain, visit Bahrain page CPJ here.