Monday, June 07, 2010

Facing Imprisonment, A Journalist Prosecuted for Violating a Publication Ban

"Facing Imprisonment, A Journalist Prosecuted for Violating a Publication Ban"

HAQ: Movement of Liberties and Democracy- Bahrain

حق: حركة الحريات والدموقراطية- البحرين

مكتب حقوق الإنسان ..Human Rights Bureau, Email:

Facing Imprisonment, A Journalist Prosecuted for Violating a Publication Ban

June 7, 2010

The Human Rights Bureau (HRB) at the HAQ Movement of Liberties and Democracy express its concerns to the ongoing stifling of freedom of expression and journalism. The HRB learned that the Bahraini Public Prosecution (PP) summoned Mohammed Al-Sawad, a journalist in Al-Bilad newspaper, accusing him of violating the publication ban issued by the Attorney General on the case of a former minister and his relation with money laundering issue brought up in March this year[1]. Al-Sawad was accused of violating the publication ban issued by the investigating authority and could be imprisoned for a year, as per the Penal Code of 1976.

Mohammed Al-Sawad was courts reporter to Al-Bilad newspaper and was closely following up the case of the money laundering case, which involved summoning and prosecuting a former minister which was under public focus early this year. On March 25, 2010, the Attorney General issued a resolution to ban all publications related to this case[2]. As per the PP statement:"..On the issue of illicit money laundering currently under investigation, it has been noted that some media covered the issue with news and thoughts distant from reality. Since it is felt the need to enclave the investigation with secrecy as a requirement of integrity of investigations, the Attorney General issued a resolution to prohibit publication of any information or news relating to the case in question only what comes out of the Public Prosecutor". Since that resolution, newspapers were obliged not to cover any development of the case in Bahrain or elsewhere.

Al-Sawad learned that the case of money laundering was passed to the court and hence published that news on June 1, 2010 in Al-Bilad newspaper. This act was considered in violation of Article 246 of the Penal Code of 1976 which stipulates that:" Punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding one hundred Dinars who publishes in a public manner news of investigation the investigating authority has banned its publication to take into account public order or morality or the emergence of the truth". In presence of Mr Sami Syadi, Al-Bilad newspaper attorney, Al-Sawad was summoned by Ali Al-Shuwaikh -head prosecutor- who ordered the release of Al-Sawad, with guarantor of his residence.

As per Mohammed Al-Sawad:" The case came out of the mandate of the Public Prosecutor and became under the jurisdiction of the Higher Criminal Court, and therefore the decision to ban publishing issued by PP falls automatically". He continued:"The public prosecutor's decision will continue only as long as there is an investigation, and then cancelled automatically. There is no resolution to ban publication indefinitely". He concluded:" The purpose of the publication was for public interest and inform the public on the outcome of one of the biggest cases of public affair".

In January 2007, Mohammed Al-Sawad and Ahmed Al-Aradi, another journalist, both working then in Al-Waqt newspaper, faced similar charges when challenged a court publication ban and published a news coverage about Al-Bander report released by Dr Salah Al-Bander, a former Government strategist[3]. The report was about a secret organization controlled by the Royal court and aimed, among others, to rig elections and foment sectarian sentiment between Shia and Sunni citizens. The case against Al-Sawad and Al-Aradi was then suspended by the Public Prosecution[4].

HAQ calls for:

1- Stop harassing and prosecuting journalists when performing their duty of documentation, reporting and analysis about conduct of public institutions

2- Repeal the case against Mr. Mohammed Al-Sawad ensuring no reprisals are carried out against him as a result of practicing his activities as a journalist shedding light on public issues.

3- Amend all legislations, such that they conform with the international charters and covenants, in particular, the Press Code of 2002 and the Penal Code of 1976.

4- Respect vows and commitments expressed to international covenants, particularly those involved with freedom of expression and journalism.