The Bahrain Press Association issued a semi-annual report documenting a series of violations against media freedoms in Bahrain.
The London-based association monitored 15 violations against journalists, media professionals and social media users during the first half of 2021.
Since the outbreak of the political and security crisis in Bahrain in early 2011, the cases amounted to about 1,721 violations of freedom of opinion and expression, the association reported.
Between January and June 2021 were 6 cases of summons to police stations or the Public Prosecution for interrogation, 5 cases of arrest, and finally, four judicial procedures and penalties.
Charges brought against the detainees or those convicted in courts or through administrative procedures were “criticizing normalization”,
“questioning the efforts of the national team to combat the Coronavirus”, “insulting the judiciary”, “criticizing the Ministry of Interior” and “violating public morals”.
The report noted a decrease in the number of cases classified as violations of media freedoms and freedom of
opinion and expression. The report recorded 78 violations for the same period observed in the past year, 2020.
It said that the decline in violations is not because measures are mitigated against citizens
but rather because most citizens use fake names on social media out of fear from authorities.
According to the report, “Perhaps the most prominent example that reflects the oppressive atmosphere that the
country has reached is the Parliament’s decree prohibiting members of Parliament themselves from criticizing,
blaming or accusing the government.
It is a step included in the report “in the context of many other steps that have made criticizing the government and its bodies and those in charge of it very costly, if not impossible.”
The bogeyman of cybercrime
The Cybercrime Department of the Ministry of Interior plays the most significant role in monitoring and prosecuting government critics, especially on the Internet and the virtual public space.
The administration has the authority to summon, interrogate, and stop activists in various social media and those
who express their opinions in virtual publications.
In its report, the Bahrain Press Association urged the government, especially in light of the new presidency of the
Crown Prince and Prime Minister Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, to take a bold decision to stop the
deterioration in media freedoms that has continued since 2011
by releasing freedoms and reforming the work of the cybercrime unit by ending its grip on public discussions.