Melon Farmers Original Version

Press Freedom in Bahrain

Slighty improved press law

22nd May

Update: Slaves to Oppression...

Bahrain bans AJ-Jazeera

Bahrain has suspended local operations of the Qatari broadcaster al-Jazeera and barred a crew from travelling to the Gulf Arab state.

Al-Jazeera, with a record of tense relations with Arab states over its coverage of sensitive political topics, recently aired programmes on poverty and the treatment of Asian labourers, both sensitive matters in Bahrain.

Bahrain has temporarily frozen the office of the Qatari al-Jazeera satellite TV channel for breaching the professional media norms and flouting the laws regulating the press and publishing, the official Bahrain News Agency said.


10th May

Pressing On...

Bahrain proposes a step towards press freedom

Bahrain has announced a new draft press law, long demanded by journalists and rights groups, which scraps jail terms for most offences but leaves courts to rule on two key areas.

The draft law guarantees freedom of expression as long as religion is not insulted or national unity threatened. The information minister, asked whether offenders could be jailed, said judges would decide.

This is left to the judiciary and is not the affair of the information ministry, Minister Jehad Bukamal (pictured) said at a news conference.

No journalist has been imprisoned in Bahrain since 1999, the rights group Reporters Without Borders said in a March report on the country, which was placed 118 out of 169 in its 2007 press freedom index, behind Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Kuwait is the only other Gulf Arab state that has decriminalised press offences, the organisation said.

We're happy that Bahrain has decriminalised press offences, but journalists can still be prosecuted under the penal code, for insulting the king or religion for example, Reporters Without Borders' Middle East chief Hajar Smouni said.

It is not clear how the draft law will affect bloggers, and a Bahraini official said blogging would be dealt with in later legislation.

It was not clear when the new draft press law would be presented to parliament for approval. Bahraini journalists said Islamist lawmakers, who have dominated parliament since 2006 polls, might object to the law, particularly in relation to insulting Islam. But Bahraini officials said they were confident the law would be passed soon because King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has backed press law reform.


11th March

Always Tomorrow...

Bahrain free to delay promised press freedom

Bahrain was urged yesterday to provide more protection for journalists by scraping the jail sentences in its Press law.

A report by Reporters Without Borders has issued calls for the authorities to implement legislative reforms they have been promising for years.

It also called upon them to fulfil their promises to allow more Press freedom. According to the report, reform of the Press law must not be abandoned for lack of political determination or because of pressure from the radical fundamentalists who form the majority in parliament.

The report calls also upon the government to put an end to the state monopoly on broadcasting. The organisation also urged the Information Ministry to show more restraint in its censorship of the Internet. Access to some web sites is banned. It should be the job of the courts, not the government, to regulate the Internet, the report said.

The report praised the freedom atmosphere in the Kingdom when compared to other GCC states, but highlighted that the Press freedom situation is far from satisfactory.

It appreciated the fact that no journalist has been imprisoned since March 1999, but highlights that the Press was still facing many problems. It claimed that restrictive laws and pressure from officials too often force journalists to exercise censorship.

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