We, the undersigned, express our deep concern with the Bahraini Public Prosecution’s decision to charge Nazeeha Saeed, correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya and France24, with unlawfully working for international media. We consider this an undue reprisal against her as a journalist and call on Bahrain’s authorities to respect fully the right of journalists to practice their profession freely.
Nazeeha Saeed is an award-winning journalist and correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya and France24. She has previously reported on the protest movement in 2011, and has reported on the mounting dissent against the Bahraini government for the last several years.
On Sunday 17 July 2016, the Public Prosecution summoned Nazeeha Saeed for interrogation based on a legal complaint from the Information Affairs Authority (IAA). The prosecution charged her under article 88 of Law 47/2002, which regulates the press, printing and publication. Article 88 states that no Bahraini can work for foreign media outlets without first obtaining a license from the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), which must be renewed annually.
Prior to the expiration of her license, Nazeeha Saeed applied for a new one at the end of March 2016, at which point, the IAA refused a renewal. This is the first time she has received such a rejection. Following this, Saeed continued to work as a correspondent for France24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya. She now faces trial in the civil courts and a fine of up to 1000 Bahraini Dinars (USD $2650) if found guilty.
This is not the first time Nazeeha Saeed has been subjected to harassment by the Bahraini authorities. In May 2011, during a state of emergency imposed in response to Arab Spring protests, police summoned Saeed to the station and detained her there. For her coverage of events in Bahrain – Nazeeha Saeed witnessed police killing a man at a protest and rejected the government narrative of events – police allegedly subjected her to hours of torture, ill-treatment and humiliation, which only ended when she signed a document placed before her. She was not allowed to read it. Despite complaining to the Ministry of Interior and the new Special Investigations Unit, the body under the Public Prosecution charged with investigating claims of torture and abuse, in November 2015 the authorities decided against prosecuting the responsible officers on the basis of there being insufficient evidence.
In June 2016, Bahrain’s authorities placed Nazeeha Saeed on a travel ban, preventing her from leaving the country. The ban was applied without informing Saeed, who only discovered it after she was refused boarding on her flight. The police officer at the airport was unable to explain the reason for this travel ban, and officials from the immigration department, the public prosecution and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), told the journalist that they were not even aware of its existence. Saeed is one of approximately twenty individuals known to have been banned from travel in Bahrain since the beginning of June 2016. Other journalists working for international media face similar threats and have also reported facing increased pressure from the government in the last year, making their work difficult. RSF and the Committee to Protect Journalists both list Bahrain as one of the leading jailers of journalists in the world. One of them, Sayed Ahmed Al-Mousawi, was stripped of his citizenship by a court in November 2015.
As organisations concerned with the right to freedom of expression, we call on the Government of Bahrain to end the reprisals against Nazeeha Saeed, lift her travel ban and drop the charges against her. We also call on the authorities to stop arbitrarily withholding license renewals and to allow journalists to report with full freedom of expression as protected under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture (ACAT)
- Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
- Albanian Media Institute
- Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
- Article 19
- Bahrain Center for Human Rights
- Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy
- Bahrain Press Association
- Bytes for All
- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
- Cartoonists Rights Network International
- Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
- Committee to Protect Journalists
- Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
- English PEN
- European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
- Foro de Periodismo Argentino
- Freedom Forum
- Freedom House
- Free Media Movement
- Front Line Defenders
- Gulf Centre for Human Rights
- Hisham Al Miraat, Founder of the Moroccan Digital Association
- Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda
- Independent Journalism Center – Moldova
- Index on Censorship
- Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
- Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión – IPLEX
- International Press Institute
- Justice Human Rights Organization
- Maharat Foundation
- Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
- Media Watch
- Norwegian PEN
- Pacific Islands News Association
- Pakistan Press Foundation
- Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms – MADA
- PEN American Center
- PEN Canada
- PEN International
- Reporters Without Borders
- Social Media Exchange – SMEX
- Solidarity Center
- Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique