SHAFAQNA – Bahraini human rights defender and correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo, Nazeeha has fallen once again victim of the government’s crackdown on freedom of expression.
Saeed was arrested for the first time in May 2011, after covering the pro-democracy movement spreading throughout the country, she was subjected to beatings and torture while in police custody, and released only after signing a false confession. Describing her torture, Saeed said she was “blindfolded, kicked, punched, and slapped. Her hair was pulled, she was whipped with plastic tubing, had a shoe forced into her mouth and her head dunked into a toilet. An unknown, caustic liquid said to be urine was poured onto her face, she was repeatedly insulted and mentally abused and asked to make a false confession.”
Although she had three independent medical reports – two of them issued by Bahrain’s MOI – and she was also able to identify her five torturers, no one was held accountable for torturing her and those who were brought to court were later acquitted of all charges.
In its most recent attempt to silence Saeed from publicly reporting on the escalating human rights violations in Bahrain, the government forbade her from leaving the country. She was prevented from boarding a plane to Germany on 29 June, when airport security authorities informed her that a travel ban had been imposed on her, without providing any reason or additional information.
Saeed enquired at the Nationality, Passport, and Residence Department which confirmed that she wasn’t banned from travel; however, when she attempted to travel through King Fahd Causeway, she was again not allowed to leave the country and was told that she is banned from travel.
On 17 July 2016, the public prosecution summoned Saeed for interrogation over charges of “exercising media work without an authorisation.” According to the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), Saeed has allegedly violated Article 88 of 2002 Bahraini Press Law, regulating the press, printing and publications as stated, which states that “correspondents of foreign newspapers, magazines, news agencies and radios shall not exercise their work in the Kingdom of Bahrain unless licensed by the ministry for a renewable one-year period.”
Saeed asked for a renewal of her permit earlier in March, which was refused by the IAA. Now she faces a fine of up to 1,000 Bahraini dinars ($2,650).
Freedom of expression, as well as freedom of movement, are fundamental human rights preserved by both national regulations and international human rights laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of which Bahrain is a signatory.
The charge filed against Nazeeha Saeed, and the travel ban imposed on her, are merely motivated by her peaceful and legitimate activities in the defence of human rights in Bahrain.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights therefore calls on the government of Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally lift the ban on Nazeeha Saeed, guaranteeing her right to freedom of movement;
- Drop the charges against her, allowing her to carry out her journalistic work, and respect the sanctioned right to freedom of expression;
- Allow all human rights defenders and journalists to carry out their activities, in Bahrain and abroad, without fear of harassment and retaliation; and
- Immediately cease the ongoing crackdown on journalists, activists and civil society.