Bahrain: France’s $2 billion investment in Bahrain must not prevent the French government from speaking out for an inclusive political dialogue in Bahrain

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On 1 May 2019, French President Macron received King Hamad of Bahrain at the Palace Elysee in Paris. In the aftermath of the meeting, palace staff published an official press release on their website in which they declared that “the president encouraged Bahraini authorities to continue their efforts to re-establish a political dialogue that includes all components of Bahraini society” and “stressed that the guarantee of rights was inseparable from stability.” This takes place in the context that the Bahraini government has intensified a crackdown on civil liberties and freedom of expression in Bahrain which has suppressed dissenting voices and crushed any semblance of political dialogue since several years.  

However, the Bahraini Foreign Minister, Khalid Alkhalifa, challenged many of the Elysee’s claims in a series of posts on his official Twitter page. Particularly, in one tweet, Alkhalifa stated that “the French president did not raise any issue related to political dialogue,” asserting that “Bahrain has a political dialogue that takes place every day through legislative institutions and free expression in the press and the media.” 

Then, a French presidential source affirmed the French government had discussed several subjects with Bahraini authorities, including “inclusive political dialogue.” 

France’s dismissal of Alkhalifa’s allegations brings into questions the strength of the relationship between France and Bahrain. But despite these contradictions, Bahrain and France signed a memorandum of understanding with French companies on Monday worth over $2 billion.   

However, Bahrain’s Minister of Public Information, Ali Al-Romaihi, who signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Audiovisual Institute of the Republic of France on Monday, is personally responsible for the closure of Al-Wasat – the country’s only independent newspaper – and the dismissal of its 160 staff members. 

The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) asks the French government to clarify their statement and calls out Bahrain on their dismal human rights record.  France’s $2 billion investment in Bahrain must not prevent them from speaking out, particularly given their historic commitment to the defence of freedom of speech. In addition, ECDHR condemns these statements from Bahrain’s Foreign Minister which are webs of falsehoods. Bahrain should stop to imprison political opposition while proclaiming the holding of a national dialogue.