Journalist arrested, another believed to be held in Bahrain

New York, August 1, 2013–A Bahraini blogger has been detained and a photographer is missing amid signs that Bahraini authorities are trying to crack down on critical voices ahead of protests planned for August 14, according to news reports.

“Bahraini authorities have a record of suppressing critical news and commentary, which has had the effect of obscuring the extent of the country’s unrest from the rest of the world,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour.

Masked security agents arrested blogger Mohamed Hassan at his home in Sitra early on Wednesday, news reports said. The agents confiscated Hassan’s computer and cell phone, the reports said. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights told CPJ that authorities have denied having Hassan in custody at the Dry Dock Detention Center in the town of Hidd, where the family believes he is being held. Authorities have not disclosed the charges against him.

Authorities have harassed and detained Hassan several times since early 2012. Hassan, who often covered human rights and politics in Bahrain for his blog, Safybh, was previously summoned for interrogation in June 2012 in connection with his writing and involvement in the Bahraini opposition, according to the Bahraini Center for Human Rights. He stopped writing his blog on April 29, 2013. He has also worked as a fixer for news organizations.

Another journalist, Hussein Hubail, a freelance photographer who is also Hassan’s friend, has been reported missing, according to news reports. The accounts said the journalist had not been heard from since he sent a message on Wednesday that said he believed police were going to arrest him while at the airport.

Hubail’s family told Bahraini news outlets that they did not know his whereabouts.

Hubail, who photographs opposition protests in Bahrain, has had his work published by Agence France-Presse and other news outlets. In May, independent newspaper Al-Wasat awarded him a photography prize for his picture of protesters enshrouded in tear gas.

The arrests come as political tensions rise in Bahrain over a protest planned for August 14 that has been modeled after the demonstrations that led to the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. King Hamad Bin Issa al-Khalifa decreed new measures on Wednesday to crack down on protesters who the government believed were engaging in terrorist activities.

“Authorities should release Mohamed Hassan and should immediately disclose whether they are holding Hussein Hubail and under what circumstances,” CPJ’s Mansour said.

At least one other journalist is imprisoned in Bahrain. Ahmed Humaidan, a photographer, was arrested in December on accusations of participating in illegal protests. His trial has been delayed several times.

CPJ research shows that Bahraini authorities have detained numerous critical journalists over the past two years in efforts to suppress coverage of protests and stories that might depict unflattering conditions in the country.

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