Bahrain lifts ban of al-Wasat newspaper

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SHAFAQNA -  The Bahraini regime has reportedly ended a temporary suspension of the country’s only independent newspaper after criticism from human rights groups.

Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) issued a statement announcing the lifting of the two-day ban on al-Wasat newspaper, the official BNA news agency reported on Sunday.

On August 6, the IAA said it had temporarily closed the newspaper “due to violation of the law and repeated dissemination of information that affects national unity and the Kingdom’s relationship with other countries.”

Al-Wasat was established in 2002 as part of a reform and reconciliation program by Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

After the temporary closure of the Bahraini newspaper, Human Rights First, an international human rights organization, criticized the move, describing al-Wasat as an independent and widely respected newspaper.

“The immediate suspension of al-Wasat newspaper in Bahrain is another seriously alarming, if predictable, move from the Bahraini government in silencing all opposition voices and crushing dissent,” said Brian Dooley, the director of Human Rights Defenders at Human Rights First.

Meanwhile, Nabeel Rajab, the president of Bahrain’s Center for Human Rights, described the newspaper’s closure as an attack on freedom of expression, adding that the recent restrictions would move the country toward a dark future.

Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain Husain Abdulla also criticized the move by Manama, saying it was “an attempt to shut down the only free media in the country.”

Manama has countered peaceful demonstrations in the country over the past four years with a heavy-handed measure, which has left scores of Bahrainis dead and hundreds of others injured. The regime has also imprisoned many of its opposition figures.

The Al Khalifa regime has been witnessing anti-government demonstrations since mid-February 2011.

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