2018: Bahrain without Different Opinion, 86 Violations of Freedoms of Media and Expression, 21 Judicial Verdicts, 32 Investigations and 24 Arrests

2019-01-03 - 1:41 am

Bahrain Mirror: 2018 wasn't much different from the previous years in Bahrain, since the beginning of the political crisis, in terms of media and public freedoms such as rights to freedom of opinion and expression. There are about 86 documented cases which clearly proved that there is no tolerance in Bahrain with  regards to freedom of expression about topics the authorities don't like to discuss. These violations included 21 verdicts, 32 investigations which included torturing of imprisoned citizens, 24 arrests, in addition to 9 cases of hindering from practicing work.

The most prominent charges brought against the detainees were "inciting hatred against the regime", "misusing social media outlets", "insulting a statutory body", "insulting symbols of a certain sect ","defaming and insulting through publication "and" inciting the boycott of elections". This suffocating atmosphere was exacerbated by the passage of the political isolation law by the authorities, which included the prevention of members of the dissolved opposition societies and independent critics from participating in the elections, whether by voting, running or appearing on various media channels. This has made the media space in Bahrain, and in particular the press, more like a duplicate copy of the Official Gazette. On the level of elections held on November 24, which was boycotted by the opposition, the press and media were prevented from conveying the reality of the elections. Besides, boycott advocates were prevented from accessing various media outlets or expressing their views, even though the right to express their views was guaranteed in article 23 of the Bahraini Constitution. This was preceded by threats to deprive the electoral districts of government and housing services, the criminalization by the Ministry of the Interior of the boycott and the threat to pursue any invitations issued through any means. This has already been done through censorship of social media platforms, to the point where any other opinion in the elections has disappeared for fear of arrest. A former MP was arrested after expressing a personal position referring to his decision and his family to boycott the elections. The following are the main violations of media freedoms and the rights of opinion and expression:

Courts and Judiciary

The Court of Cassation upheld on (January 15, 2018) a two-year jail sentence against human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, for "spreading rumors and false news."  A Bahraini court sentenced on (January 24, 2018) a Shiite cleric to six months in jail for "insulting Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya." The High Criminal Court sentenced on (February 21, 2018) the prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab for the second time to 5 years for condemning torture in a Bahraini prison and the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen. A Bahraini court sentenced on (February 28, 2018) the former

"Bahrain TV" anchor Mohammed Al-Shorouki to 3 months and a bail of 100 dinars to suspend the verdict after he was charged with insulting the former MP Mohammed Khaled. The Court of Appeal upheld on (March 7, 2018) the sentence against journalist Mahmoud Al-Jaziri of "Al-Wasat" newspaper to 15 years and the Internet activist Ali Ma'raj to 25 years and revoking their citizenships on charges of "joining a terrorist cell." The Court of Appeal upheld on (March 21, 2018) a one-year sentence against the activist Jalila Al-Sayed Amin and a bail of 1000 dinars for "administering a social media account that criticizes the government." The Bahraini Court of Appeal upheld on (March 27, 2018) a 10-year jail sentence against the press photographer Sayed Ahmed Al-Moussawi and revoked his citizenship. On April 18, 2018, a Bahraini court sentenced the former MP Mohammed Khalid to three months in prison and a bail of 300 dinars to suspend the sentence after he was convicted of "insulting figures of a particular religious sect" on Twitter. The 5th Minor Criminal Court sentenced on (May 9, 2018) the Tweeter Sayed Ali Al-Derazi to 2 years in prison for tweets that incite hatred of the regime on social media. The Appeals Court upheld on (May 29, 2018) a 3-month jail term against former MP Mohammed Khalid and a bail of 300 dinars to suspend the sentence after he was convicted of "insulting figures of a particular religious sect" on Twitter. The Court of Cassation upheld on (June 4, 2018) a 1000-dinar fine against the Radio Monte Carlo and France 24 correspondent Naziha Saeed for "working without a license." On June 5, 2018, the Court of Appeal upheld a jail sentence of 5 years against the human rights activist Nabeel Rajab for criticizing torture in a Bahraini prison and the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen. On June 20, 2018, the execution judge refused to substitute the sentence of the anchor Mohammed Al-Shorouki for community service after the court sentenced him to 3 months in prison for insulting the former MP Mohammed Khaled on "Twitter". The High Criminal Court, however, acquitted him of insulting charge and fined him 50 BD over charge of "deliberately annoying the victim". A Bahraini court sentenced on (June 25, 2018) the cyber activist Najah Ahmed Yousef to 3 years in prison for running an online account that posts protests against the "Formula 1" race in her village in Bahrain. The High Criminal Court sentenced on (August 26, 2018) Shiite cleric Sheikh Mohammad Said Al-Aradi to 6 months in prison over charges of "insulting a figure who is glorified by a sect on his account on a social media outlet", and ordered replacing the sentence with a community service. The Minor Criminal Court fined on (October 9, 2018) businessman and member in Chamber of Commerce and Industry 50 BD over charges of harassing the Chamber's CEO and former members of board through sending them emails criticizing the chamber's budget spending. The Second High Criminal Court sentenced on (October 19, 2018) Al-Watan newspaper editor-in-chief Yousif Al-Binkhalil to one month in jail and a bail of 100 dinars. It also replaced the sentence with an alternative manual punishment over "insulting through publishing" over the lawsuit raised against him by former MP Anas Bu Hendi. The High Criminal Appeals Court replaced on (December 25, 2018) the imprisonment sentence with community service and fining him 1000 BD. The Appeals Court upheld on (October 29, 2018) a 3-year verdict issued against tweeter Najah Yousif over her posts on Facebook in which she criticized "Formula 1" during 2017.

Arrests Profile        

The security authorities arrested on (February 24, 2018) 6 Tweeters: Mohammed Al-Shorouki, Abdullah Al-Maloud, Khaled Mohammed Mohammed, Rashid Saad Al-Dusari and Fahd Al-Shammri for "creating malicious accounts and disseminating offensive, inflammatory and seditious tweets." The Public Prosecution arrested on (March 26, 2018) a cyber activist without disclosing his name for "posting tweets that involve insulting and offending others." On March 30, 2018, the Public Prosecution announced the detention of 3 people for 7 days on charges of "spreading offenses on the social media."  The Bahraini Ministry of Interior announced on (April 14, 2018) the arrest of Ayman Mohammed Khaled, the son of the former MP Mohammed Khalid, for "leaking information on social media that affects the personal lives of others." Security authorities detained on (April 27, 2018) the "National Geographic" cameraman Sayed Baqir Al-Kamil while touring a mall in the capital Manama. He was told that a verdict of a two-month prison sentence was issued against him and that he must appeal against the verdict and pay a fine if he wanted to get released. On June 12, 2018, the security authorities arrested the photographer Hassan Qambar who was sentenced to more than 120 years after a police raid in Nuwaidrat. The Public Prosecution ordered on (August 29, 2018) the arrest of citizen Mohammad Khatem pending investigation over charges of "inciting hatred against the regime" after he protested in front of the former government building in Manama, holding a banner that read "I can't find food for my children". The public prosecution ordered on (October 14, 2018) the detention of eulogy citer Mahdi Sahwan for 15 days over "inciting hatred against the regime" after reciting a poem in Al-Sehla obsequy. The security authorities arrested on (October 29, 2018) Imam of Al-Kheif Mosque in Al-Dair, Sheikh Isa Al-Moemen, after delivering a lecture and using verses from the holy Qur'an, whose meaning the investigator didn't understand and decided to arrest him and refer him to the prosecution. Shiite cleric Sayed Kamel Al-Hashimi was arrested on (November 1, 2018) to execute a 3-year jail sentence that has been issued against him since 2016 over the charge of insulting "King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and inciting hatred against a sect". The security authorities arrested on (November 5, 2018) Shiite preacher Sheikh Abdulmohsen Mulla Atiya Al-Jamri after summoning him for interrogation over one of his religious lectures content. The public prosecution detained on (November 13, 2018) former Al-Wefaq MP Ali Al-Ashiri over a tweet he posted in which he said that neither him nor his family will take part in the elections. The prosecution arrested on (December 9, 2018) producer Qahtan Al-Qahtani for one week pending investigation over sending a WhatsApp message, which the ministry of information affairs deemed insulting to it and filed a lawsuit against him. The public prosecution arrested during Ashura season on (September 10, 2018) administrators in Imam Al-Rida obsequy in Al-Malikiya village, Mohammad bu Hamid and Abdullah Bu Rashid for 15 days pending investigation over charges of "inciting hatred against the regime". It also ordered the arrest of preacher Hani Al-Bana'a and Sheikh Yasine Al-Jamri for 15 days pending investigation over the same charge. The prosecution also arrested the head of Ras Rumman obsequy and eulogy citer Sayed Mahmoud Al-Wadaei and decided to refer them to the high criminal court.

Investigation and Interrogation

The security authorities interrogated on (January 16, 2018) the former MP Mohammed Khalid for "insulting a glorified figure of a religious sect" and decided to refer the case to the Public Prosecution on 30 January to consider the case. The Bahraini Public Prosecution summoned on (January 25, 2018) "Al-Watan" journalist Sawsan Al-Shaer and accused her of "insulting the Bahraini People" in her TV show, "My Responsibility," broadcast on ‘Bahrain TV.' The Cyber Crimes Unit in the Administration of Criminal Investigation summoned on (February 21, 2018) the secretary-general of the "Unitary National Democratic Assemblage" Hassan Al-Marzouq to interrogate him for "tweeting to incite protesters to demonstrate." On March 20, 2018, the Public Prosecution summoned Al-Watan editor-in-chief Yousif Al-Binkhalil following a complaint filed against him by the MP Anas Buhendi for publishing news about him. The Cyber Crimes Unit summoned on (April 17, 2018) the Tweeter and the former colonel in the Bahraini Army Mohammed Al-Zayani for interrogation. Security authorities summoned on (June 26, 2018) journalist Mohammed Al-Ghasra, the director of "Delmon post", for interrogation concerning news published about the Jaafari Endowment Administration. The public prosecution summoned on (August 14, 2018) Al-Watan editor-in-chief Yousif Al-Binkhalil following a complaint filed against him by "Bank Al-Khair" after publishing an ad in the newspaper which the bank deemed insulting to it. The security authorities summoned during the same period from (September 10 to 20), which coincided with Ashura season, a religious occasion annually commemorated by Shiite citizens in Bahrain, 24 clerics, eulogy citers and obsequy heads and accused them of "inciting hatred against the regime" and "insulting Yazib bin Moawiya". The 24 are: Sheikh Ali Al-Jufairi, Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sheikh, Sheikh Mounir Maatouk, Sheikh Yasine Al-Jamri, Sheikh Hani Al-Bana'a, eulogy citer Sayed Hussein Al-Maliki, eulogy citer Mahdi Sahwan, Sheikh Mahdi Al-Karzakani, Sayed Sadiq Ali Al-Ghuraifi, Sayed Mohieldin Al-Mashaal, Sheikh Majid Al-Sahlawi, Sheikh Bashar Al-A'ali, Sheikh Mohammad Al-Rayyash, eulogy citer Abdullah Sabah, Sayed Kamel Al-Hashimi, Sheikh Jassim Al-Damistani, Sheikh Abdulazim Al-Muhtadi Al-Bahraini, Sheikh Abdulamir Mal Allah, eulogy citer Mahmoud Al-Wadaei, Sheikh Mohammad Al-Rayyash, eulogy citer Saued Hussein Akil, head of Al-Taf martyrs obsequy Mirza Al-Fardan, head of Al-Nabi obsequy Abdullah Ahmad and administrators in Imam Al-Rida obsequy in Al-Malikiya village Mohammad Bu Hamid and Abdullah Bu Rashid.

Hindering Practice of Work and Other Violations

The Interior Ministry Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa announced on (March 25, 2018) taking strict measures to deal with what he described as "an unprecedented coup and electronic chaos" caused by some social media accounts, adding that the kingdom is ready to enact new laws to counter the negative impacts. Head of Civil Service Bureau Ahmed bin Zayed Al-Zayed threatened on (April 24, 2018) to take severe measures against abusers of social media outlets of public sector employees that would reach dismissal from service. On September 6, 2018, the interior minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa issued a circulation to the governorates to stop issuing any publications one day after the launching of the electronic newspaper "Al-Janubiya Times". The security authorities in the Bahrain International Airport banned on (September 15, 2018) the independent German photojournalist "Philip Broui", an expert in Middle East affairs, from entering Bahrain and deported him from the airport to the Jordanian Capital Amman where he resides, without giving him any reason for this. The Interior Minister threatened on (October 6, 2018) to take needed measures against anyone who publishes news or messages that call for non-participation in the parliamentary elections and referring those involved to the public prosecution. Photographer Hassan Qambar complained on (October 15, 2018) from being beaten, along with his companions, in Jaw Central Prison, after he was prevented from practicing religious rituals and after the prison administration imposed punishments against those who breach the orders. The Interior Ministry announced on (October 19, 2018) taking measures against Twitter account @ABALKHALIFAH managed by Abdullah bin Mohammad Al Khalifa who is a relative to the ruling family over "publishing tweets that included insults to a statutory body". The National Assembly canceled on (October 28, 2018) a seminar it announced in its headquarters after pressures it was subjected to by the justice ministry which demanded to cancel the participation of opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif in the seminar. For its part, ministry of sports and youth banned on (November 21, 2018) holding a seminar in Al-Orouba club that was dedicated for showcasing a book of Bahraini academic Dr. Nader Kazem that was recently issued under the title "No One Sleeps in Manama".

Published in Cooperation with Bahrain Press Association

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