Photo on the left (Mazen Mahdi): The pro-government group encircling journalist Reem Khalifa(right)

16 July 2011

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights condemns the continued harassment of journalists in Bahrain. Journalist Reem Khalifa was recently harassed, insulted, and had her privacy violated by pro-government members while attending a press conference in Manama on 14 July 2011.

Journalist Reem Khalifa has been increasingly targeted after speaking openly at a press conference[1] of the Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa on 17 Feb 2011. Khalifa said in front of local and international media attending the conference that what happened in Bahrain, referring to the attack on peaceful protestors at 3am on 17 Feb 2011, was a massacre and called on the King of Bahrain to intervene and put an end to the crisis. Amid her emotional speech, she said that she was "shivering" because of what happened. The FM tried to silence her as she spoke and her intervention was removed from the playback on the State TV. The UAE Foreign Minister and Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council also attended the conference.

Since then, Reem Khalifa has been continuously targeted by pro-government supporters, particularly in social media, and received a death threat by telephone. She had to close her original twitter account (@reemkhalifa17) in February.

The latest harassment directed at her took place on 14 July 2011 while she was attending the Irish delegation to Bahrain press conference around 7.30 pm at the Ramada Palace Hotel, Manama, Bahrain. Ten to 15 pro-government doctors and reporters for the state-run media interrupted the Irish delegation as they were briefing the press. The press conference was abruptly brought to a halt when a pro-government group of men and women[2] interrupted with objections. The group provoked Reem Khalifa by forcing a confrontational encounter with the journalist, encircling her and using abusive language, such as, "you are the shivering and weeping lady," in reference to her intervention at the 17th Feb conference. One woman started filming Khalifa, and continued to do so despite calls from her to stop. When Khalifa tried to to turn off the camera phone, the woman claimed to be hit. Because the situation was heated, Khalifa left the hotel.

According to witnesses[3] , the woman, who was laughing when Khalifa left the hotel, claimed that she was hurt and punched in the jaw by Khalifa. She was encouraged to convert laughter into weeping, and then called the TV crew to record an interview of her giving an account of what happened.

The BCHR has learnt that the woman has filed a case against Reem Khalifa accusing her of physical and verbal assault. Khalifa has also filed a case against the woman for verbal assault and for assault on her personal privacy through persistent filming of her and publishing the video on the internet without permission.

The Bahrain Press Association (London) has issued a statement [4] to condemn the continuation of the regime’s provocative practices against journalists to hamper their work of professionalism and impartiality." It also said that "what happened with Reem Khalifa is a repeat of previous incidents where the state deliberately sabotaged many press conferences."


--- [1] [2] [3]!/MazenMahdi/status/91563720412631041!/MazenMahdi/status/91610583274749953!/HussainMJawad/status/91800049809489920 [4]