On 16 January 2017, a Bahraini court will begin hearing the trial of the correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya and France24, Nazeeha Saeed, who was was charged on 17 July 2016 with “practicing journalism without a license.” We, the undersigned human rights organizations, condemn the judicial harassment of Saeed for her work as a journalist and call on the Government of Bahrain to drop all charges against her and suspend its campaign against foreign reporters.
The case against Nazeeha Saeed was filed based on a Ministry of Information Affairs complaint that Saeed was reporting for an international press body without a license. Saeed applied to renew her foreign media work permit in March 2016, in accordance with the Bahraini press law. The Ministry of Information Affairs rejected Saeed’s license renewal without providing legal grounds.
Saeed has been charged under the “publishing crimes” chapter, in Article 88 of Law 47/2002, under which all Bahraini journalists working for foreign news agencies are prevented from freely conducting their work without first acquiring a license from the Ministry of the Information Affairs, which must be renewed annually. The law provides no criteria or definitive timelines for the renewal process, nor does it provide any means for transparency of the process.
Saeed is a torture survivor. Describing her torture in police custody in 2011, Saeed said she was blindfolded, kicked, punched, and slapped. Her hair was pulled, she was whipped with plastic tubing, had a shoe forced into her mouth and her head dunked into a toilet. An unknown, caustic liquid said to be urine was poured onto her face, she was repeatedly insulted and mentally abused and asked to make a false confession. Although she had three independant medical reports – two of them issued by Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior – and she was also able to identify her five torturers, no one was held accountable for her torture. During June and July 2016 Saeed faced further harassments the government imposed a travel ban on her without any explanation. The ban was later lifted.
In addition to Saeed, the Ministry of Information Affairs has denied license renewals to at least three other Bahrain-based reporters for Reuters, Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press. Since 2011, Bahrain has placed extensive restrictions on foreign media access to the country, having denied over 100 journalists entry to the country in an effort to stop international media coverage of the ongoing political and civil unrest.
Bahrain’s actions to prosecute and silence foreign correspondents is in violation of the freedom of expression as protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We therefore express our deep concern about the Government of Bahrain’s continued efforts to undermine the right to freedom of expression and call on the government to:
- Drop all charges against Nazeeha Saeed;
- Allow all journalists and reporters to conduct their work freely and independently, and to fully respect their right to freedom of expression.
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)