[The following report was published by the Bahrain Press Association on 3 May 2014]
The Bahrain Press Association 2013 annual report, “Less Freedom, Broader Impunity,” is intended to be an objective resource documenting violations of freedom of expression and suppression of the news media and the press during the year in Bahrain. This is the fourth report issued by the association, an independent organization founded in London in 2011 by exiled Bahraini journalists concerned with defending the rights of journalists and media personnel. Previous reports were “Bahrain: Word Leading to Death,” issued in October 2011; “Hunger for Freedom,” May 2012; and the 2012 annual report, “Bahrain: Silence Is a War Crime.”
“Less Freedom, Broader Impunity,” issued in Arabic and English, outlines the obstacles and challenges facing freedom of the media and the press in Bahrain. It also explores the special challenges for television and new media and the targeting of online activists. The report focuses on the culture of impunity that was evident during the official investigations and trials of those accused of committing torture that led to the death of journalists and media workers in 2011 and 2012.
The report provides full documentation of the violations against Bahraini and international journalists, media professionals and online activists. It also contains documentation of other violations, including killing and torture, as well as the dismissal of more than 145 media professionals in various sectors since 2011.
The most serious violations witnessed in 2013 include:
- The Bahraini authorities continue to practice a hostile policy against media professionals, journalists and online activists using arbitrary arrest, prosecution and direct targeting. These policies have resulted in the arrest and trial of Bahraini journalists and the deportation of foreign journalists.
- Physical assaults of journalists and photographers covering demonstrations in Bahrain were documented. Those who were arrested were subject to mistreatment and torture, which appears to be systematic.
- The Bahraini government is still delaying fulfillment of its commitment to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry as well as the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council regarding reforming the media sector and securing freedom of expression.
- The authorities are still using prosecution as a tool to pressure journalists and online activists and seek revenge from those who do not cooperate with the government.
- The judiciary authority, headed by the king himself, continues to hold simulated trials of those accused of killing and torturing media professionals. Only one light verdict has been announced against any officials to this day which raises the association’s concerns regarding the culture of impunity in Bahrain.
- The government did not fulfill its promise to introduce a new journalism and media law, and freedom of expression is still restricted by Law 47 of 2002, which organizes the press, printing and publishing. This has enabled the regime to practice total control over the media in Bahrain.
- The regime has imposed more restrictions on freedom of expression through measures passed in 2013 by the National Assembly.
- Political prosecution increased this year, and the courts received more cases involving charges of “insulting the king and the political institutions in Bahrain.”
- The state implemented several organizational measures through the Ministry of Information in order to track more activists on social networks.
- The regime is still monopolizing TV and radio broadcasting and not allowing opposing voices to appear on the state-run TV and radio channels.
- The regime still interferes – directly and indirectly – in the content of local newspapers, censoring many opinion columns and news media coverage and banning some content outright.
- No media professionals were reinstated to their jobs since the arbitrary dismissals during the brutal crackdown in early 2011.
- The authorities continued a crackdown against those media professionals living in exile. Their names were blacklisted in many Arab countries, which in turn led to their being banned from entering some of these countries.
- The authorities still refuse to grant entry visas to those affiliated with international organizations concerned with freedom of expression.
[To read the full report click here]