Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bahrain:Minister of Information replaced following TV programme critical of ruling elite corruption

IFEX - News from the international freedom of expression community


18 November 2008

Minister of Information replaced following TV programme critical of ruling
elite corruption

SOURCE: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has learned that
the Bahraini Minister of Information, Jihad Bu-Kamal, has been replaced by
Shaikha Mai Al-Khalifa, a member of the royal family, after a talk-show
program criticising the ruling elite of corruption was aired on TV.

Bu-Kamal, a businessman and former member of the Appointed Shura Council,
was named Minister of Information just over a year ago in a limited
ministerial cabinet shuffle. Bu-Kamal took the place of Mohamed
Abdulghaffar, the current Bahraini ambassador to Brussels, after a row over
a cultural programme (coordinated by Al-Khalifa, who was then the assistant
secretary to the Ministry of Information. The programme provoked the
Islamists in Parliament, leading to the creation of a committee, which
denounced the programme and its coordinator.

Last week, the Bahraini TV programme "Al-Meezan" invited Ibrahim Sharif,
Secretary General of the National Democratic Action Society, also known as
"Waad," and Abdulnabi Salman, a former member of Parliament and member of
the Progressive Democratic Forum Society, also known as "Al-Menbar", to
speak about the 2007 Report of the Fiscal Monitoring Bureau.

In that TV programme, Abdulnabi and Sharif criticised the fiscal report,
pointing to the deterioration of the oversight capabilities of Parliament,
and accused the government of hiding detailed information concerning oil
revenues, future funds, tenders and the spending of the military and
service ministries. Sharif accused the executive branch, led by Shaikh
Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa, Bahrain's only prime minister since 1970, of
lying and misleading the public with regards to misappropriations of public
funds. He further inquired about the inflated budget of the Royal Court, as
well as of other state-owned companies. Sharif accused the ruling elite of
breaching the Bahraini Constitution, which limited the funds allocated to
the Royal Court.

Nabeel Rajab, the president of BHCR, stated, "This is a sad and strange act
by the Bahraini government, whose public relations endeavours try to
portray Bahrain as an oasis of transparency and respect for freedom of

The BCHR deplores the reprisal against the Minister of Information
for giving members of political societies a single opportunity to express
their views on public issues live and without constraints. "The Minister of
Information was penalised for not ensuring that the invited TV guests would
not express their views in this unapproved manner," Rajab added.

Last week, the Bahraini Minister of Interior, a member of the royal family,
issued a statement threatening citizens with legal prosecution for any form
of contact with foreign agencies or participation in events concerning
local issues while outside Bahrain.

The Bahraini authorities should refrain from penalising its citizens for
expressing their views and should lift all legislative restrictions on any
form of expression. BCHR believes that the Bahraini authorities should
loosen their grip over TV, radio and the press to enable citizens to
express themselves without fear of punishment or legal action.

For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, President, BCHR, Manama,
Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170, e-mail:
nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org, info@bahrainrights.org, Internet:

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of BCHR.
In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit BCHR.
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