Increased persecution of journalists in Bahrain

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mrs. Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
3502 International Drive NW
Washington, DC - 20008

July 7, 2011

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is concerned by the increase in persecutions of journalists and members of the foreign media, coinciding with King Hamad Ben Issa Al-Khalifa’s initiation of a national dialogue with the aim of relaunching political reforms in the wake of unrest earlier this year.

Among the journalists and media workers arrested and charged are:
• Mohamed Salman Al-Sheikh, international award-winning journalist and president of the Bahrain Society of Photography;
• Ali Abdulemam, blogger tried in absentia and sentenced to 15 years in prison;
• Abdullah Alawi and Jassem Al-Sabbagh, journalists forced to resign from the newspaper
Al-Bilad and later arrested; and
• Abbas Al-Murshid, freelance journalist and writer denied both bail and access to his family
and lawyer.

Bahraini authorities are also seeking to bring a lawsuit against British journalist Robert Fisk for waging a “defamatory and premeditated media campaign” against Bahrain and for alleged bias and unprofessionalism in his coverage of recent events.

Coverage of these cases has been severely limited. The state-owned Bahrain News Agency (BNA) publishes daily summaries of most trials except for those involving journalists – although there has been some coverage of trials of journalists with the newspaper Al-Wasat.

CJFE calls on the Bahraini authorities end the crackdown on journalists and members of the foreign media. CJFE urges the Bahraini authorities to recognize the right to freedom of expression, and to provide each of the accused journalists a fair and unbiased trial.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours Sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: His Excellency David Chatterson, Ambassador of Canada to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs