Hassan Qambar

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Freelance journalist Hassan Qambar had filmed pro-reform protests and disturbances undercover for almost a decade before his arrest in June 2018 in Bahrain. Prior to his arrest, he was sentenced in absentia to 55 years in prison. Later, authorities added additional charges, with the journalist being sentenced to more than 100 years behind bars. Hussain is currently serving a life sentence in Bahrain for his political activities, according to the London-based Bahraini human rights organization Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy

Qambar was arrested on June 12, 2018, by Bahraini security officials when they raided his house in Nwaidrat, a journalist familiar with the case told CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation, and according to a report by the U.S.-based human rights group Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB). Qambar had been a freelance camera operator since 2009, the journalist told CPJ. 

Qambar was first arrested in April 2011, after covering the first two months of pro-democracy protests, and charged with posting false news and rumors, as well as vandalism, and was sentenced to a year and a half in prison, ADRHB reported. He was released in February 2012 after an appeals court reduced his sentence, it said. The journalist familiar with his case said that Qambar was interrogated about his media work after his initial arrest, but it was unclear if they were referring to his journalism or his media work since 2011 with opposition political leader Abdulwahab Hussain. 

Qambar continued to cover Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement after his 2011 release, ADHRB reported. The anonymous journalist told CPJ that Qambar continued filming in secret, and his video footage of protests and abuses by Bahraini security forces was published by Reuters news agency, Russian state-owned outlet RT Arabic, and others. In an email to CPJ, an RT Arabic representative told CPJ the outlet obtained the footage from the video news agency Ruptly, which is a division of RT, and from The Associated Press.

Qambar’s home was raided more than 60 times between 2012 and 2018, according to ADHRB. The journalist familiar with his case told CPJ that intelligence agents continually raided Qambar’s house and tried to arrest him before June 2018 and threatened his family by saying that they would kill him when they arrested him.

Prior to his 2018 arrest, Qambar was convicted in absentia on seven charges, including burning tires, assaulting a police officer, and participating in a terrorist organization, and sentenced to a combined total of at least 55 years in prison, ADHRB and the same journalist said. 

In recent years, authorities have added additional charges against Qambar, including helping to form a group called Hizbulla al-Bahrain, according to the journalist. CPJ could not determine if this group is a local branch of Hezbollah or a different group. He also faced charges of leading a terrorist cell and inciting hatred against the regime, the journalist said. 

In late 2019, the Bahrain Press Association documented an additional charge against Qambar, of filming and sabotaging riot operations. According to the anonymous journalist, as of November 2020, all court proceedings against Qambar had been completed and he had been sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. CPJ was unable to determine which specific charges he was sentenced on. 

According to a July 20, 2018, report from the opposition activist group February 14 Revolutionary Youth Coalition, prison authorities tortured Qambar and denied him access to medical treatment. A report by Lua Lua TV, which has since been taken offline, cited the February 14 Coalition as saying that Qambar was seen by another inmate in June 2018 walking on crutches with injuries apparently resulting from being physically assaulted. The journalist familiar with the case told CPJ that prison authorities had beaten Qambar and other inmates on October 15, 2018, when they asked for permission to perform religious rituals. 

As of late 2023, Qambar is imprisoned in Jaw Prison. In August 2023, various media outlets reported that inmates at Jaw Prison staged a mass hunger strike to protest conditions, though CPJ could not confirm whether Qambar participated. After 36 days, prisoners suspended the strike following authorities’ pledge to improve conditions. 

As of late 2023, CPJ could not confirm whether Qambar had any new court appearances, charges, nor the status of his health in prison. 

CPJ emailed the Bahrain Interior Ministry’s press office in late 2023 for comment on Qambar and other Bahraini journalists in prison but did not receive a response.