New York, February 15, 2016 - The Committee to Protect Journalists calls for the immediate release of four American journalists arrested in Bahrain yesterday while reporting on the anniversary of the launch of mass opposition protests on February 14, 2011.
A statement issued by the family of one of the four journalists today identified her as freelance journalist Anna Therese Day. The statement did not name the three others, who have not yet been identified in media reports, but said they had previously worked with Day in creating virtual reality documentary films in Gaza and Egypt. It is not clear whether the four were on assignment for a particular news outlet at the time of their arrest.
Bahrain's Ministry of Interior, in a statement issued today, accused the four journalists of entering the country under the false pretense of tourism and failing to register with the appropriate authorities. The Interior Ministry said police had arrested one journalist, whose name they did not provide, in the village of Sitra, and alleged he had participated in riots and attacks against police there. Three other journalists whose names the Interior Ministry did not release were subsequently arrested at a nearby checkpoint, the ministry said, adding that the four would be referred to the prosecutor general's office.
"It is sad that the fifth anniversary of the 2011 protests has been marked by the arrest of yet more journalists in Bahrain, which has since become one of the worst jailers of journalists in the Arab world," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour. "We call for the immediate release of the four journalists arrested today and all other journalists who have been imprisoned over the past five years."
At least six other journalists are currently imprisoned in Bahrain in connection with their work, according to CPJ research. The government has frequently equated reporting on protests and attacks on police with participating in them. Earlier this month, Bahraini photographer Ahmed al-Fardan began serving a three-month prison sentence on charges of participating in an illegal protest, according to his lawyer and news reports.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This text has been changed to clarify that the Bahraini Interior Ministry did not publicly name any of the arrested journalists.