Three international journalists asked to leave Bahrain

New York, April 19, 2013–The Bahraini government ordered three journalists from the British television network ITV to leave the country today, according to news reports citing an ITV spokesman. The journalists, who were also briefly detained on Thursday, are in the process of leaving the country.

The ITV crew was composed of correspondent Rageh Omaar, and a cameraman and producer, who have not been identified, according to news reports. The journalists were covering the political unrest in Bahrain that coincided with a major Formula One race this coming weekend, the reports said.

An ITV spokesman said in a statement on Thursday that police stopped the crew from filming on Thursday and took them to a local police station. She said the police held “discussions” with them before saying they could continue to film. The ITV journalists filed a story on the protests later that day.

In a statement today, the ITV spokesman said the team was stopped again today and taken to a local police station, where they were asked to leave the country. It was not clear as of Friday afternoon if the journalists had left the country.

The Bahrain News Agency, a state-run outlet, reported that three “foreign journalists” had been deported because of what was called a failure to acquire the proper licensing. But the ITV spokesman said the journalists’ trip had been “approved by the Bahraini authorities who issued their visas.”

The Formula One race is controversial within Bahrain, with detractors claiming the race should be canceled because of ongoing human rights violations in the country. The race was canceled in 2011 during major unrest, but was held last year despite widespread protests. CPJ documented at least 31 violations against the press last year as authorities attempted to suppress coverage of unrest around the Formula One race. One team of journalists working for the U.K.’s Channel 4 News was arrested and deported as part of the crackdown.

“Deporting journalists is an odd way for the government to show Bahrain has turned the corner with its human rights record,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The government must allow journalists to conduct their work freely, whether filming tire changes at the race track or tire burnings in the villages.”

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