ADHRB Exclusive Interview with
Bahraini Journalist Nazeeha Saeed
Photo Credit: Isa Ali Hammadi
Nazeeha Saeed, a Bahraini correspondent for France 24
and Radio Monte Carlo
, witnessed firsthand the brutal tactics used by the Government of Bahrain to suppress the peaceful uprising in 2011. As a result of her coverage of those events, she was harassed, arrested, detained, and tortured
, and the police officers responsible for her torture and mistreatment have enjoyed complete impunity. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain recently caught up with Ms. Saeed to discuss the state of freedom of expression in Bahrain, the recent acquittal
of one of Ms. Saeed’s torturers, and what the international community should be doing to support human rights in Bahrain.
Q: What actions has the Government of Bahrain taken against foreign and domestic journalists since 2011 that have made it difficult for them to do their work in Bahrain?
A lot of restrictions have been imposed on foreign journalists trying to enter the country, which wasn’t the case before 2011, so a lot of pressure has been put on local journalists to show what’s going on in Bahrain. Since 2011, the government has begun harassing and monitoring local journalists, and scrutinizing our reports because they are often the only source of information on the situation in Bahrain. At times we get calls or emails directing us not to report on some topics.
Q: Have there been any improvements for journalists since the BICI report was issued in late 2011?
As a Bahraini journalist living and reporting in Bahrain, I haven’t seen changes in the treatment of journalists since the report was released. We are still being harassed, still being stopped, and still being arrested by police for doing our jobs.
Q: The Bahrain government is considering restricting VoIP services like Skype, while a recent amendment to the Penal Code increases the penalty up to five years for insulting the king, the flag, or other national symbols. How have such measures affected journalists in Bahrain?
A large number of Bahrainis don’t have a conventional media outlet for their ideas, so they rely on social media to obtain information and express themselves. If VoIP services are restricted, people will lose their ability to speak freely. The Penal Code amendment has caused everybody in Bahrain to be more careful when describing events, because the amendment language is vague and can be used against anybody who says or reports anything the Bahrain government doesn’t like.
Q: Some Bahrainis have left the country because they fear repercussions from the Bahrain government for their views. Why have you stayed?
I understand why people leave Bahrain, but for me, I could never leave my country or my job. I’ve been in this job for fourteen years. I have loved journalism since I was a kid and I don’t know how to do anything else.
Q: What can the US government do to alleviate the current situation in Bahrain?
Support free media. Support impartial and fair trials. Support political reforms. Western allies should stop complimenting the Bahrain government. They need to criticize and speak out against the situation in Bahrain. Remaining silent or applauding the Bahrain government is not helping the country to move forward, it’s not helping free media, and it’s not helping freedom of speech.
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