A human rights organization has documented the growing hate speech directed from an official policy in Bahrain due to religious persecution practised by the ruling Al Khalifa regime in the country.
The Peace Organization for Democracy and Human Rights stated in a statement received by Bahraini Leaks that incitement, denigration, criminalisation practised, and even extremist language have been policies employed by the Bahraini authorities through their security apparatus, media outlets, newspapers, and pro-government journalists for over a decade.
The organization noted that these policies had targeted a large segment of Bahraini citizens due to their opposition to the regime or their religious and ethnic differences, creating a fertile environment for spreading hate speech in Bahrain.
On the occasion of the International Day for Combating Hate Speech on June 18th of each year, the Peace Organization expressed its deep concern about the escalation of hate speech in Bahrain amid ongoing tensions related to sectarian persecution and arbitrary arrests that contribute to increasing sectarianism and discrimination in the country.
Despite the Bahraini government’s claims of peaceful coexistence, respect for different religions, and rejection of hate speech, and its supposed compliance with the recommendations of the Rabat Plan of Action in 2012 regarding the prohibition of incitement to national, racial, or religious hatred, it continues to incite, disseminate, and protect hate speech instigators in line with its interests to target the opposition and the Shia community.
The Peace Organization has observed various methods of spreading hate speech in Bahrain. Firstly, it is evident in the biased press and non-independent media outlets. Secondly, it is propagated through social media platforms, using directed electronic propaganda controlled by the security authorities. It also manifests in detention centres and prisons during torture and interrogations.
Four specific newspapers (Al-Watan, Al-Bilad, Al-Ayyam, Akhbar Al-Khaleej) serve as tools for promoting the Bahraini government’s policies and are dedicated to targeting the opposition, specifically the Shia citizens.
Thousands of media articles spread the venomous hate speech targeting a significant segment of society, using dangerous phrases such as “traitors,” “agents,” “terrorists,” and “sons of…”. These phrases directly incite hatred and reinforce the repercussions of religious and racial discrimination.
Furthermore, extensive and organized electronic campaigns, supported by electronic bots primarily linked to the Bahraini government and other Gulf governments, target the same group of people on social media platforms in a malicious and organized manner. The number of offensive tweets and fake accounts tends to increase during specific events or large-scale demonstrations, such as Ashura or protests.
In addition, hate speech spreads within prisons and detention centres, where security personnel use derogatory and insulting language, particularly against political prisoners. These acts take the form of threats and verbal abuse targeting the prisoner’s person, sect, and religious beliefs to provoke and psychologically torture them.
In light of this, the Peace Organization for Democracy and Human Rights urged the Bahraini government to enact modern legislation to combat hate speech in line with the recommendations of the Rabat Plan of Action in 2012.
The organization emphasized the importance of holding accountable those involved in disseminating hate speech and inciting against a particular group or sect in the country, as well as refraining from incitement, denigration, and criminalization of opposition solely based on the expression of their opinions.