Bahrain 2016: Finishing Off The Margin (REPORT)

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SHAFAQNA – While the journalists in Bahrain are joining the world celebrating the “World Press Freedom Day” 2017, systematic and unjust Government policies continue to restrict what is left from the margin of press and media freedom in the country. An indication to that, at least, rising of violations to around 359 violations of basic rights such as; freedom of media, freedom of opinion, and expression.

The annual report of the “Bahrain Press Association” 2016 is entitled: “Bahrain: Finishing Off The Margin,” to indicate that the Government policies today, after successfully encircling the space of the private media and twist it, turned to the rest of the margin of communication tools to twist it, and to fill any gaps that might allow producing or trading what you don’t want to hear, read, or see.

The Government depended in undermining this electronic margin on terrorizing journalists, citizens, politicians, and human rights activists through security and judicial targeting and depriving them of their right to express, under the deliberate disruption of domestic and international charters pledge, as well as respect for the country’s Constitution.

Since 2011 and so far, the “Bahrain Press Association” records show around 1253 violation of basic rights such as; freedom of media, freedom of opinion and expression. Detention and threatening policies indicate the strict governmental direction towards the importance of adherence to the call of the government in various domestic and international issues, as it is not entitled to journalists and politicians to adopt any point of view of opposition.

It was hoped that authorities adopt more straight and positive policies. However, there was no progress, but it went too far and affected the rest of the margins. These strict policies caused reduced spaces of social-political dialogue which was hoped to reduce the gap between political parties, including social components that interact negatively with local and regional political developments.

2016  was a difficult year for those working in the media and all its related fields as well as the digital/internet civil press and photographers.  The Bahraini authorities have tightened their grip on the permitted ‘free expression’ outlets. The intensive targeting of bloggers and tweeters and taking them to courts, to the extent of creating a high level of fear and caution from expressing critical opinions on social media platforms.

This also applied to lawyers, Human Rights defenders and leaders of political associations. This is evident by the sudden disappearance of several prominent and outspoken accounts that are known for their daring criticism.

The control extended to private chat Apps. The recorded cases referred people for trial due to their expression of views on social networking applications such as WhatsApp. The authorities also banned the use of the application Telegram due to the difficulty in monitoring it.

The information Affairs Authority stopped renewing the licenses of the correspondents of international news agencies and foreign media in Bahrain without valid reason.

The Bahraini Press Association condemns the targeting of journalists, bloggers and photographers which it believes has become a systematic and widespread behaviour and one of the main reasons that led to the decline in Bahrain’s reputation at an international level in terms of media freedom. The Association also demands that the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Nations and all international organisations and bodies involved in the defence of freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of the press and media to immediately intervene and exert pressure on the government for the following:

  • The immediate and unconditional release of all the detained photographers, journalists and activists who were imprisoned because of their work in covering the protests or in exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  • The halt of prosecutions, arbitrary arrests and judicial trials to Internet activists and journalists and photographers and politicians, and everything related to the reduction of freedom of opinion and expression in the country.
  • Allowing the media and press freedoms in the country and the closure of the Office of censorship on the Internet at the Ministry of Communications and the abolition of the labour law No. (47) for the regulation of the press, publishing and printing in the country.
  • Ending the monopoly of the media and television and radio and introducing independent media that provides/offer an alternative opinion.
  • Invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on enhancing and protecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression and schedule an urgent visit to Bahrain.

The “Bahrain Press Association” extends sincere thanks to all who contributed to the completion of this report, we thank the (National Endowment for Democracy, NED -the United States of America) the funding and continues support.

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