New York, June 5, 2017--Bahraini authorities should revoke an order barring the independent news outlet Al-Wasat from publishing and stop harassing the newspaper and its journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The Ministry of Information Affairs yesterday ordered Al-Wasat to cease publishing in print and online indefinitely, the outlet's editor-in-chief Mansoor al-Jamri, told CPJ.
Al-Jamri said that an official from the ministry called an Al-Wasat employee to notify the outlet of the ban and did not offer any reason for the closure. An article about the ban by the official Bahrain News Agency refers to an editorial published in Al-Wasat yesterday that "included the defamation of a sisterly Arab country." Al-Jamri told CPJ that the Bahrain News Agency article may be referring to an op-ed about protests in Morocco's Rif region.
"Al-Wasat has long been the scapegoat for a government fearful of allowing a free press," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "This ban should be lifted immediately."
Al-Jamri said that the outlet received a letter from the Bahraini authorities confirming that the newspaper was barred from publishing until further notice. The letter did not provide a reason for the ban. The lack of any recourse or communication channel with authorities has left the newspaper unsure of how to proceed, he added, saying that the lack of due process left them "in the dark."
The Embassy of Bahrain in Washington, D.C. did not immediately respond to CPJ's emailed request for comment.
Al-Wasat, which is Bahrain's only independent publication, was ordered to suspend publication in January of this year, and has repeatedly been shut down in the past, CPJ has found. CPJ honored Al-Jamri with an International Press Freedom Award in 2011.
Last month, CPJ joined several news agencies and press freedom organizations in calling on King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to allow journalists to operate freely in the country. The call is in response to Bahraini authorities denying entry to a German journalist involved in a documentary critical of the country's human rights record and authorities questioning three Bahraini journalists, including an Al-Wasat staff writer, about social media posts and a protest.
Also last month, a Bahraini court convicted in absentia Nazeeha Saeed, a journalist for Monte Carlo Douliya and France24, of working without a license. Saeed, who lives in exile, told CPJ the court fined her 1,000 Bahraini dinars (US$2,650).