‘Bahrain must stop jailing journalists’

Reporters Without Borders has censured Bahrain for imprisoning journalists and human rights activists.

“We are sounding the alarm about the recent arrests of journalists and human rights activists in Bahrain and we condemn the government’s nearly two-year-old policy of harsh repression,” Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières — RSF) said in a statement issued on Monday.

“The authorities clearly want to obstruct journalists and prevent the flow of information about demonstrations and their suppression by the security forces,” the statement added.

RSF cited the examples of Ahmed Humaidan, a Bahraini photojournalist, who has been in custody since December 29, 2012, and Sayed Yousif al-Muhafda, a human rights activist, who will go on trial on Tuesday on charges of circulating false news.

Al-Muhafda, who is the vice president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the head of its documentation department, was arrested on December 17 and held for a month, but was finally released on bail on January 17.

He is charged with deliberately disseminating false news on Twitter with the aim of inciting violence.

RSF has asked the Bahraini judiciary to drop the charges against al-Muhafda, saying the charges were only filed to punish him for his commitment to the free flow of information about the human rights situation in Bahrain.

Reporters Without Borders has called for his immediate release and the dismissal of all the charges against him.

Over 30 international human rights organizations, including Reporters Without Borders, have sent a joint letter to the US president, calling on him to pressure the Bahraini government to free all the human rights defenders and activists being held in the Persian Gulf kingdom.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have staged numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on the peaceful protesters.

According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested.

Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have “evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police” in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.