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Reporters Without Borders Condemn Arrests in Bahrain

[Bahraini human rights defended Sayed Yousef Al-Muhafda. Image from] [Bahraini human rights defended Sayed Yousef Al-Muhafda. Image from]

[The following statement was issued by Reporters Without Borders on 28 December 2012.]

Reporters Without Borders condemns the Manama prosecutor-general’s 25 December decision to hold human rights defender Sayed Yousef Al-Muhafda for another two weeks on a charge of posting false information on Twitter.

Arrested on 17 December, Muhafda is currently being held in an isolation cell in a police station in the northeastern suburb of Hoora. One of the accusations against him is waiting until 17 December to post a photo taken on 15 December of an injured young demonstrator.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of Muhafda and the withdrawal of all the charges against him. He is in charge of documentation at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and is the centre’s vice-president.

“Muhafda is yet again paying for his commitment to the circulation of information about human rights violations in Bahrain,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The authorities must stop their repeated violations of freedom of information and allow news providers to operate freely.”

At the time of his arrest, Muhafda was tweeting live from a demonstration in Manama to mark the anniversary of the deaths of two demonstrators killed during a 1994 uprising, He was accused of circulating false information on Twitter when he was brought before the prosecutor-general the next day.

He was previously arrested on 2 November while covering the use of violence to disperse a demonstration, and was released twelve days later.

The information provided by Bahrain’s human rights activists is all the more important as the authorities limit visits by foreign journalists and often obstruct the reporting of those who are allowed in.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reported that he was denied entry on arrival at Manamaairport on 17 December because he was on a persona non grata list.

 In a statement two days later, the interior ministry claimed that no foreign journalist had ever been denied a visa and that Kristof was refused entry solely because he failed to adhere to visa application procedures.

Reporters Without Borders also condemns the recent arrests of DPA photographer Mazen Mahdi and photographers working for the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. Mahdi was held for two hours after being arrested during a demonstration in Saar in 28 December. He was previously detained briefly while covering demonstrations on 16 and 17 December.

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