12 April 2011

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns netizen Zakariya Rashid Hassan’s death in detention on 9 April, six days after his arrest on charges of inciting hatred, disseminating false news, promoting sectarianism and calling for the regime’s overthrow in online forums. He moderated a now-closed forum providing information about his village of origin, Al-Dair. His family has rejected the interior ministry’s claim that he died as a result of sickle cell anemia complications. Three other netizens are still detained. They are Fadhel Abdulla Ali Al-Marzooq (arrested on 24 March), Ali Hasan Salman Al-Satrawi (arrested on 25 March) and Hani Muslim Mohamed Al-Taif (arrested on 27 March). Marzooq and Taif moderated forums in which Internet users could discuss the ongoing events. Satrawi was a forum member. There is no news of Abduljalil Al-Singace, a blogger arrested on 16 March.

Reporters Without Borders is also worried that Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has been accused by a military prosecutor of posting a “fabricated” photo of the injuries inflicted on Ali Isa Saqer, one of two people who died in detention on 9 April. Rajab posted the photo on Twitter the same day, saying Saqer had died as a result of mistreatment while in police custody.

As previously noted, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) reported that the military prosecutor general issued a decree on 28 March – Decision No.5 of 2011 – under which the publication of any information about ongoing investigations by military prosecutors is banned on national security grounds. The decree reinforces the arsenal of measures that authorities can use to silence any reporting about human rights violations.

The public prosecutor meanwhile decided yesterday to press charges against the three senior Al-Wasat journalists who were fired on 3 April for alleged “serious abuses” including publishing fabricated news that undermined the country’s international image and reputation. The three – editor Mansour Al-Jamari, managing editor Walid Nouihid and local news editor Aqil Mirza – said they had been sent a summons by fax by the Information Affairs Authority, a government agency that regulates the media.

Their problems began on 2 April, when the national television programme “Media Watch” accused the newspaper, which was founded in 2002, of trying to harm Bahrain’s stability and security. The next day, the information ministry announced its closure. After the three had been forced to stand, the Information Affairs Authority reversed this decision and announced that Al-Wasat could resume publishing and distributing on 4 April. Two Iraqi journalists who had worked for the newspaper since 2005, Raheem Al-Kaabi and Ali Al-Sherify, were deported the same day.

Reporters Without Borders has learned of the arrests of two photographers last month. They are Mujtaba Salmat, who was arrested on 17 March, and Hussain Abbas Salim (also known as Hussain Al-Khal), who was arrested on 28 March. Both are members of the Bahraini Photography Association. They had been taking photos of the demonstrations in Pearl Square. Salmat had posted some of them on Facebook. The sports journalist Faisal Hayat was arrested on 8 April for participating in the 14 February movement. His photo was displayed on state TV with the label “traitor.”