2 November 2018 – Today, on the fifth United Nations (UN) International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) recognizes Bahraini journalists who have faced, and continue to face, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, and death at the hands of the Bahraini government because of their work. We condemn the Government of Bahrain’s attacks on journalists, bloggers, writers, and human rights defenders and suppression of free expression and we call upon Bahrain to take serious steps to hold perpetrators of violence against journalists accountable for their crimes.

According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), there are currently 15 imprisoned journalists in Bahrain. RSF’s annual World Press Freedom Index confirms Bahrain’s hostility to free press, ranking Bahrain 166 out of 180 states, two spots lower than last year’s report. This is Bahrain’s worst ranking since the index started in 2013 and aligns with increasing attacks on, and arrests of, journalists, bloggers, writers, and human rights defenders. Among those imprisoned are Nabeel Rajab, Ahmed Humaidan, Mahmood al-Jazeeri, Najah Ahmed Yousif, and Sayed Ahmed al-Mousawi. Rajab, the president of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, is currently serving a seven year prison term for comments on Twitter and giving television interviews. Humaidan, a photojournalist, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for allegedly participating in an attack on a police station. Al-Jazeeri reported on political detainees and Parliament for the independent newspaper Al-Wasat until it was shut down by officials and al-Jazeeri was arrested. Yousif is serving a three-year prison term for her social media activity criticizing the 2017 Formula One Grand Prix. Al-Mousawi, an internationally acclaimed photographer who has won numerous awards, was arrested with his brother in 2014 and held for nine months without being officially charged. He and his brother were charged as “terrorists” for documenting an anti-government protest and he received a 10 year prison sentence.

In addition to facing arbitrary arrest, journalists in Bahrain face violence and potential death. Security forces shot and killed Ahmed Ismail Hassan in 2012 while he was attending a protest against the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain. Witnesses at the protest claim he was targeted because he was a journalist. The UN called for an investigation of Hassan’s death, but according to a 2016 UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization report, the case is unresolved and the perpetrators remain at large.

“Over the last several years Bahrain has taken severe steps to stifle dissent, arresting dissidents, imprisoning journalists, and censoring articles and speech. Journalists should be allowed to report on issues of national significance in Bahrain, including protests, economic issues, corruption, and dissent. Instead, writers, photojournalists, and bloggers are at the forefront of censorship efforts, repression, and violence,” said ADHRB’s Executive Director Husain Abdulla. “We call upon the international community to hold Bahrain accountable for its crimes against journalists and to pressure the government to investigate rights abuses and acts of violence against journalists and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

ADHRB condemns the violence and suppression the Bahraini government has applied against journalists. We call upon the government to establish an independent and impartial body to process and investigate cases of violence against journalists and writers, in particular the killing of Ahmed Ismail. The institutions already in place like the Office of the Ombudsman or the National Institution for Human Rights are neither independent nor impartial. The international community must hold Bahrain accountable.