Today, 2 November, marks the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which the UN have dedicated to condemn all attacks against journalists and media workers. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concern about the deterioration of the safety status of journalists in Bahrain and the ongoing restrictions of the freedom of press. Out of 180 countries, Bahrain ranked the 169th in the 2020 World Press Freedom index after it was 167 in 2019.
While fulfilling their essential role, journalists around the world face harassment, threats, arbitrary detentions, and politically motivated prosecutions. That comes in the attempt of some governments to clamp down on press freedom and freedom of expression. According to CPJ, 22 journalists were killed in 2020 and killers went unpunished. Thus, impunity leads to deterioration in the global human rights status by covering up serious human rights abuses, corruption, and crimes.
In Bahrain, journalists and citizen-journalists are given long jail terms and sometimes even life sentences, on such charges as participating in demonstrations, property destruction and supporting terrorism. In 2017, the Ministry of Information suspended “Al-Wasat” newspaper, the only independent newspaper in the country.
Some journalists have spent years in prison on the background of a post on Twitter or a newspaper article, and this is what happened with the former detainee and prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. According to RSF (reporters Without Borders), 9 journalists and 5 social media activists are still in the Bahraini prisons.
Secondly, Bahrain has issued many laws that can be considered forms of restriction on press freedom and those working in this field. Among these laws is the Legislative Decree No. 47 of 2002 concerning the regulation of the press, printing and publishing, which is considered the most restrictive of the freedom of journalists. However, the international laws promote and protect the freedom of expression and freedom to impart ideas in written or printed form, or by any other medium chosen, as affirmed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966.
Further, the authorities in Bahrain continue to crack down on anyone who challenges their official vision. Three journalists have been killed since the beginning of the protests in Bahrain in 2011. As well, journalists have been subjected to harassment, arrests, and dismissal from work. Revoking citizenship can be considered one of the most common violations that the government has committed against journalists.
Therefore, BCHR calls on the authorities in Bahrain to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release all journalists and prisoners of opinion and conscience who were arrested for expressing their views;
- Lift the ban on international news agencies and satellite channels and allowing them to visit the country, and to open offices without imposing conditions that limit the possibility of freely practicing media work;
- Guarantee a fair trial for all perpetrators of violations against journalists, whether military or civilians;
- Apply the Alternative Penal Code to prisoners of conscience and journalists.