Four Bahraini journalists stripped of citizenship

February 4, 2015 6:16 PM ET

Washington D.C. February 4, 2015--Bahraini authorities revoked the nationality of at least four journalists among a total of 72 citizens, after accusing them under article 10 of the country's citizenship act of supporting terrorism, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported.

Those named on the Ministry of Interior list have been accused of spying for foreign countries; using social media to recruit others to engage in terroristic acts; attempting to destabilize the government through incitement and spreading of misinformation; and inciting the overthrow of the government, according to news reports. The government defended its decision, saying it was to "preserve and protect security and stability," news reports said.

The list includes Ali Abdel Imam, founder of BahrainOnline; Ali Aldairy, founder and chief editor of Bahrain Mirror; Abbas Busafwan, an anchor for the Beirut-based opposition station Al Nabaa; and Hussein Yousef, a blogger arrested while working with Imam in 2005. All were forced into exile because of legal threats, according to local news reports.

Bahrain had six journalists imprisoned when CPJ conducted its annual prison census in December 2014.

"Bahraini journalists who dare to express critical views already face serious risks, including legal action and imprisonment. Now Bahrain is punishing them by taking away what they value most," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "We call on authorities to stop jailing, harassing, and intimidating journalists and to allow Bahraini people their fundamental right to receive, share, and debate a wide range of information."

Imam told CPJ in an email today that none of the journalists are living in Bahrain, and none have citizenship other than Bahrain. CPJ could not independently confirm that the journalists do not have other nationalities.

Imam, who was arrested in 2010 on charges of spreading "false information," was granted political asylum in the U.K. in 2013. Busafwan, who used to write for the Bahrain dailies Al-Wasat and Al-Ayyam, founded the Bahrain Centre for Studies in London (BCSL) after moving to the U.K, according to his BCSL profile. Aldairy, who used to work for the Bahraini paper Al-Waqt, and Yousef, who used to be a correspondent with the London-based opposition satellite station LuaLua TV, are both in Lebanon, Imam told CPJ.

The journalists reacted to the government decision on Twitter where Aldairy protested the government move; Imam vowed to continue the fight for his people; Busafwan pledged to continue in journalism; and Yousef said he had become more Bahraini.

Bahrain was able to strip those on the list of their citizenship under a law passed in 2013 that allows the state to denaturalize citizens who commit "terrorist" acts, according to news reports. Human Rights Watch criticized the vague wording of amendments made in 2014 that "provide a further legal pretext for the arbitrary stripping of citizenship."

International law strictly limits the circumstances in which nationality can be removed, according to Human Rights Watch. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "everyone has the right to a nationality" and "no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality." When a country revokes citizenship it may be required to provide a right of residence, Human Rights Watch said.

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