SHAFAQNA -Â Authorities in Bahrain on Thursday evening shut down the islandâ€™s only independent newspaper, according to a government press release.
Al-Wasat, a newspaper respected throughout the region, was â€œtemporarily suspended [â€¦] until further noticeâ€.
â€œThis is due to its violation of the law and repeated dissemination of information that affects national unity and the Kingdomâ€™s relationship with other countries,â€ read aÂ statement posted to the Bahrain News Agency at 11.39pm on Thursday.
No one at the newspaper has been informed of exactly which law they are accused of violating, according to the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
The family of Mansoor al-Jamri, editor-in-chief of al-Wasat, claimed that the announcement was designed to coincide with him being out of the country, but they said that he had in fact returned from an overseas trip on 5 August.
The family added that the suspension will cause â€œlarge scale financial damageâ€ to the newspaper due to loss of sales and advertising revenue. Al-Wasat employees around 300 people.
Human rights activists condemned the decision to close the newspaper as an attack on the media.
â€œThis is an attempt to shut down the only free media in the country,â€ said Hussain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.
â€œAl-Wasat was founded in 2002, as part of King Hamadâ€™s reconciliation program. The governmentâ€™s suspension of it now represents a total rejection of that reconciliation, 13 years on.â€
Bahrain is ranked 163rdÂ in the world for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders.
Al-Wasat was forced to temporarily close in 2011, after the island was swept by hundreds of thousands of people taking part in pro-democracy protests.
In April of that year the newspaperâ€™s co-founder Karim Fakhrawy wasÂ tortured to death in police custody, according to numerous reports from human rights groups who pointed to published photos of his bruised and battered body.
The Khalifa ruling family responded to the calls for political reform by cracking down hard on the protesters and in the four years that have passed the police and security forces have become the target of sporadic attacks by fringe elements of the protest movement.