Travel Ban Prevents Journalist From Leaving Bahrain

In 2011, Nazeeha Saeed, a journalist, arrived at the Pearl Roundabout to report on the protests.  Later, Bahraini officials called her in for an interrogation where she suffered abuse. Now, in 2016 Saeed continues to be punished by the government for her coverage of the 2011 protests in the form of an unofficial travel ban. Saeed is among a group of journalists who the government prevents from leaving the country.

Due to her reporting, Bahraini police called her in for questioning. Upon arrival at the station, police interrogated Saeed. After police accused her of spying and reporting for Iranian and Hezbollah media outlets, Bahraini authorities moved her to a different office where police insulted and mocked her. A group of female police officers then physically assaulted Saeed. The officers pulled her hair, slapping and kicking her repeatedly. One Bahraini officer stuck her shoe in Saeed’s mouth. Without removing the shoe, the police took Saeed to another room. The officers then forced her to lean against a chair while an officer beat her bare back and feet with a piece of plastic tubing.

Her interrogation continued, and police officials forced Saeed to impersonate a donkey. Later, an officer doused her in a stinging liquid she later found out was urine. At the end of the interrogation, officers forced Saeed to sign documents that they prevented her from reading.  Finally, Bahraini officers told her she would spend 45 days in prison pending trial. She was allowed to leave the station after the 13 hour interrogation.

Saeed continues to suffer from the physical and mental abuse Bahraini officials inflicted upon her during questioning. In 2012, Bahraini officials acquitted Sara al-Moussa, the only officer brought to trial for the incident. The Bahraini courts acquittal of Al-Moussa came after doctors presented the courts with sufficient evidence of Nazeeha’s torture during a medical exam. The Bahraini government ignored medical evidence and cited “contradictions,” in Saeed’s testimony as the basis for their verdict. Of the acquittal Saeed said, “I’m dismayed that that I’m unable to obtain justice in my country.”

5 years after her initial questioning, the Bahraini government continues to punish Saeed. The Government of Bahrain has subjected her to an unofficial travel ban. In late June 2016, after Saeed attempted to leave the country, airport officials told her that she was banned from leaving. Upon further inquiry, higher officials informed Saeed that she was not banned. Later, however, when trying to leave the country via the King Saud Causeway, she again was stopped by Bahraini authorities who told her she was not allowed to leave the country. Saeed is one of at least 14 human rights defenders who have been prevented from leaving the country without explanation in June 2016 alone.

The Bahraini government still discriminates against Saeed, as Bahraini laws offer few rights or protections for journalists. Bahrain prevents free movement of journalists, and is therefore in direct conflict with international law. Specifically, Bahrain is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Bahrain is a signatory.

Bahrain should immediately lift travel bans for journalists, as these bans are counter to the ICCPR. The Government of Bahrain should also institute freedom of expression for journalists and human rights defenders. Similarly, Bahrain should fairly prosecute government officials and police, like Al-Moussa, who engage in the arbitrary detention and torture of journalists.