For immediate release - 7 November 2007
Bahrain: ARTICLE 19 supports collective appeal for stronger protection of freedom of expression in Bahrain.
ARTICLE 19 joins its name and voice to the appeal initiated by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights calling on the Bahraini authorities to stop violating freedom of expression, eliminate abusive laws, and respect their commitment to international charters and covenants, in the first place article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights .
The collective appeal was prompted by a recent crackdown on freedom of expression by the Bahraini authorities, including the banning of books and films, the blocking of websites, and the prosecution of individuals, such as writers and journalists, for exercising their right to free expression. According to the data collected by the Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA), 27 cases were filed against journalists in 2006, of which only 7 were considered by the Public Prosecution . In 2007, 32 cases were filed against journalists of which 12 were considered by the Public Prosecutor. These cases are a clear indicator of the dramatic deterioration of freedom of expression in Bahrain .
Since the beginning of 2007 the Publication and Press Directorate of the Ministry of Information effectively prevented the publication of two academic books by failing to respond to the authors’ publication request, without which publication is impossible. The first is Dr. Kathem’s book Memory Exploitations: In a Pluralistic Society, Saddled with History, addressing the historical and cultural constraints which prevented the establishment of cultural pluralism in Bahrain. The second is by well-known writer Abdullah Khalifa Omar bin Al-Khattab; a Martyr. The Ministry of Information had also issued a formal decision to ban an earlier novel by Mr Khalifa entitled Husain's Head.
In 2007, The Hollywood film “The Kingdom”, exploring the “war on terror” through a fictional story unfolding in Saudi Arabia, has also been banned in Bahrain. The banning was confirmed by the Publication and Press Directorate of the Ministry on Information, without any indication of the reasons behind it.The Bahraini authorities had also previously banned other films, including the “The Passion of the Christ”, which was banned in 2006 on the grounds that it was against Islam for depicting a prophet (Jesus).
At least 22 websites, including the site of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, have been banned as a result of the authorities’ repression of free expression. The websites had been blocked by Batelco, the only Internet Service Provider in the country, which is owned by the Bahraini government.
Article 47 of the 2002 Press and Publication Law, and Article15 and Article 365 of the 1976 Penal Code have been used in recent months to interrogate and prosecute more than 14 journalists as well as bloggers and website administrators. These provisions have been criticized locally and internationally for their failure to comply with international standards of freedom of expression.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information, please contact Hoda Rouhana, MENA Programme Officer, ARTICLE 19, firstname.lastname@example.org, +4420 7278 9292
For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, Vice-President, BCHR, Manama, Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170, e-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
You can visit Bahrain Centre for Human Right’s website at http://www.bahrainrights.org/
ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.
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