For immediate release – 5 February, 2009
Bahrain: ARTICLE 19 Calls for the End of the Harassment of Ghada Jamsheer
ARTICLE 19 has written to Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, King of Bahrain, asking him to ensure that women’s rights activist, Ghada Jamsheer, is protected from harassment and guaranteed her right to free expression.
Jamsheer is leader of the Women’s Petition Committee which works to protect women and advocate for improved women’s rights in the country’s sharia courts. She has been repeatedly harassed in the course of her work and has been effectively banned from the country’s media since 2007.
In November 2008, while attending the AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) Conference in South Africa, Jamsheer’s home was reportedly entered by a state security agent and detailed photographs were taken of her residence. Her house phone, mobile phone and email account were also reportedly put under surveillance.After reporting this incident to the police, Ms Jamsheer’s 74-year-old mother and sister were then accused by the police of attacking the state security agent. They are now facing court proceedings. Rather than the legitimate process of justice, this appears to be another attempt to intimidate Ms Jamsheer.Ghada Jamsheer and her family have also received threatening text messages and have allegedly been followed by a car.Jamsheer is unable to publish any articles or obtain any media coverage under a reported media ban issued by His Excellency Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister of the Royal Court.
“The harassment campaign and the media ban against Ghada Jamsheer are directly related to her legitimate work in the defence of women’s rights in Bahrain and is a clear violation of her right to freedom of expression and of the freedom of the press in Bahrain,” comments Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19. “It undermines much needed debate in Bahrain and, in particular, silences women’s voices and discourages their participation in civil society.”In the letter to the Bahraini monarch, ARTICLE 19 expressed its concerns about the physical and psychological welfare of Ghada Jamsheer and her family, and urged the authorities to restore freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, by lifting the ban and putting a stop to all intimidation of human rights defenders in Bahrain.
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