Thursday, May 20, 2010

Suspension of Al-Jazeera activities in Bahrain

HAQ: Movement of Liberties and Democracy- Bahrain

حق: حركة الحريات والدموقراطية- البحرين

مكتب حقوق الإنسان ..Human Rights Bureau, Email:

Suspension of Al-Jazeera activities in Bahrain

May 19, 2010

The Ministry of Culture and Information (Moci) declared yesterday (May 18, 2010) that it has taken the decision to temporarily suspend the activities of Al-Jazeera Office in Bahrain, for what it dubbed as "the channel's breach of professional customs and non-compliance with laws and procedures governing the press, printing and publishing"[1]. The position of the Bahraini Authorities came next day after Al-Jazeera aired a documentary about poverty in Bahrain under a serial program themed "Economy and People" which encompasses visits to different countries and interviewing its people[2].

This decision was collinear with administrative measures banning a team from Al-Jazeera English from entering Bahrain on May 18, 2010 to record an interview with UN official, as well as banning the activities of Mr. Hasan Mahfoodh, Al-Jazeera-net correspondent in Bahrain[3]. In a press released today, Al-Jazeera expressed its regrets, stating that it has received the decision of the Moci as reported in the media and was not officially passed to its administration. Al-Jazeera also is "shocked and amazed" to the news of the temporarily freeze of activities of its office in Bahrain, as no presence of such office there. Al Jazeera stated that it: "deeply regrets the above resolution and emphasized that the its editorial policy and professionalism in dealing with events and issues did not change and it always adheres to the slogan raised in the first day of its inception- The view and other view".[4]

In the latest episode "Economy and People" program aired on May 17, 2010, Al-Jazeera TV presenter, Mr. Ahmed Beshto, visited many places and villages showing the diversity between the economical image portrayed about Bahrain and the actual living and earnings of Bahrainis. Mr. Beshto made numerous interviews with Bahrainis, of the two sects of Islam- Shia and Sunnis, who expressed their views and anguish about their low income considering it below their daily needs[5]. Mr. Beshto also interviewed the Minister of Social Development who denied the existence of poverty in Bahrain[6]. The earlier episode of the same program was aired on May 10th about "The implications of abolishing the sponsorship system in Bahrain"[7] which did not receive the same reaction from the Authorities as the above about poverty in Bahrain.

Due to the raw of Hewar Islands and due to its record in hosting members of opposition, Al-Jazeera was officially banned from covering news from inside Bahrain[8] until 2007, when this ban was lifted.

The reaction of the Authorities

towards media documentation poverty in Bahrain has always been aggressive and irrational. In 2004, the Authorities detained Mr. Abdulhadi Al-khawaja, a well known human rights activist and the then Director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), for about two months when he presented a documented report about "Poverty and Economical Rights in Bahrain"[9] followed by a documentary film about poor Bahrainis[10]. The Authorities further took administrative measures to dissolve BCHR, as a direct execution of the 1989 Civic Societies Decree articulations considering the act of the center a political activity[11].

In 2007, a state-lead fierce media attack was made against the CNN when it shed light on poverty in Bahrain through its program "Inside the Middle East"[12]. Early this year, local representative of Agence France Press (AFP) and German News Agency (DPA), were summoned by the Moci their "credential" was temporarily suspended after reporting a Court ruling of a terrorist cell discovered in Bahrain[13].

Therefore, HAQ calls the Authorities to:

1- Put an end to silencing policies and attempts to control flow of information via blocking sites and blogs, banning books and publishable materials as well as films and TV documentaries.

2- Hand off foreign media and correspondents to international journals, news agencies and TV correspondents.

3- Respect vows and commitments to human rights covenants and declarations and particularly those concerned with freedom of expression and rights to information