IFJ Condemns Media Restrictions in Bahrain ahead of Controversial Grand Prix
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today accused the authorities in Bahrain of deliberately obstructing the work of foreign reporters who sought to cover the anti-government protests ahead of the Formula One race which took place in the country yesterday. Bahrain denied visas to non-sport journalists and arrested those who were working in the country without journalists’ visas.
“This selective approach to media accreditation is arbitrary and totally unacceptable,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. “The authorities were only too happy to tout the return of the Grand Prix to Bahrain as a sign that the situation is normal. Yet, they deliberately set out to deny independent media to verify this claim on the ground.”
Reports say that a number of journalists were denied visas to enter the kingdom as the decision by Formula One to stage the race there sparked new anti-governments protests. Last year’s pro-democracy demonstrations marked by violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces led to the cancellation of the motor sport event.
Among journalists who were prevented from entering Bahrain were Financial Times’ Simeon Kerr, Sky News' chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay, Times' journalist Karen Lee, CNN correspondent Amber Lyon, two AP reporters and all Reuters' non-sport correspondents.
The authorities also detained on Sunday Jonathan Miller, reporter of Britain’s Channel 4 News, along with his team for working without accreditation, according to reports. They were released this morning and deported from the country. The news channel said that the team’s local driver was assaulted and separated from the foreign reporters and his whereabouts were unknown.
The IFJ voices concerns over the authorities’ commitment to implementing meaningful changes, including respect for press freedom. The Federation points to the failure of the government to implement in full the recommendations of the Bassiouni report, in particular to review court cases involving journalists as well as reinstating all sacked journalists. The case of France 24’s reporter Nazeeha Saeed has been referred back to the public prosecutor by the High Criminal Court while journalist Reem Khalifa was recently fined BD 600 (around US$ 1600).
“The government’s ongoing resistance to legitimate scrutiny by independent media renders its claim to genuine change less credible,”’ added Beth Costa, IFJ General Secretary. “Unless they match their words with verifiable action and stop interfering in media affairs, their already poor record on democratic rule will soon be beyond repair.”