CPJ International Press Freedom Award 2011
November 22, 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation for the Committee to Protect Journalists for honoring me with the prestigious International Press Freedom Award 2011. I dedicate this award to the staff of my newspaper, Al-Wasat, and to the scores of journalists who had suffered enormously because they insisted on performing their duties during the most troubling time my country, Bahrain, had witnessed since 14 February 2011, when protesters emulated what had happened in Tunisia and Egypt, and therefore decided to gather in the Pearl Roundabout in the heart of the Bahraini capital, Manama.
The government’s crackdown on protesters spared no one, and journalists were primary targets for the repressive and extra-judicial measures. One founding investor of Al-Wasat, Mr. Karim Fakhrawi, died under torture on 12 April 2011. Another columnist, Mr. Haider Mohammed, endured one month of torture during which he suffered mock-hanging while being questioned about his work at Al-Wasat. Our photographers were detained and abused, and one of them, Mohammed Al-Mukharaq, had to be hospitalized following severe beating by security forces who used his camera to smash on his head. My wife, Reem Khalifa, a columnist and reporter suffered months of threats and persecution… Our printing press was attacked and damaged. The authorities ordered my newspaper’s board of directors to dismiss me together with senior editorial staff on 4 April 2011.
However, it was due to patience of the staff and investors of the newspapers, and due to the support we received from human rights organizations such as CPJ, that we managed to overcome many of these hurdles. The investors of the Al-Wasat newspaper reinstated me back to my position as Editor-in-Chief of Al-Wasat on 4 August 2011, and since then I have been leading a recovery process so that we continue to perform our duty as journalists truthfully and credibly reporting the events that matter.
It is a great honor for me to be with you here in New York to receive the International Press Freedom Award 2011 and while I am with you I am thinking of my country, which has joined the Arab Spring since the beginning of this year. But unlike other countries in the region, Bahrain is located in the oil-rich Gulf region, and what is happening in this small country proves the universality of human rights and democracy.
Thank you very much.