07 May 2012

Bahrain Status: Not Free Legal Environment: 28 Political Environment: 35 Economic Environment: 21 Total Score: 84

In 2011, restrictions on press freedom increased significantly, as the government cracked down on members of the media covering peaceful prodemocracy protests that began in February. Several journalists and bloggers were harassed, assaulted, imprisoned, and allegedly tortured as a result of their work. In addition, the government stepped up the filtering and blocking of websites that published criticism of the regime and news about the protests.

Despite constitutional protections guaranteeing freedom of expression and of the press, in 2011 the government continued to enforce the 2002 Press Law to restrict the rights of the media. The Press Law includes 17 categories of offenses and allows for up to five years imprisonment for publishing material criticizing Islam or the king, inciting actions that undermine state security, or advocating for change in the government. Journalists may be fined up to 2,000 dinars ($5,300) for an additional 14 offenses. In 2008, the appointed upper chamber of parliament had put forward proposals to reform the harshest provisions of the Press Law, but the conservative elected lower chamber has thus far refused to consider the proposed amendments. In February 2010, several members of parliament expressed support for the amendments in principle, but they were not passed before the rise of prodemocracy protests in February 2011.

Read full report (draft) on freedomhouse.org