On 6 August 2015, the Bahraini authorities decided to suspend, until further notice, the Al-Wasat newspaper, the country’s only independent newspaper.
According to the government, through the Information Affairs Authority, the decision to close the publication follows a violation of the law and several articles which “affect” national unity and Bahrain’s relations with other countries. On 3 August 2015, the Information Affairs Minister Isa Abdulrhaman Al-Hammadi claimed that his Ministry “would not hesitate to take the necessary legal measures to prevent the publication of false or misleading information in the various media, stressing that the ministry does communicate with media companies and establishments that disseminate inexact and erroneous information or reports about the Kingdom.” Following this statement, the authorities sent a warning to Al-Wasat for publishing false information.
It is not the first time the Al Wasat newspaper suffer harassment from the Bahraini authorities. Shortly after the February 2011 protests, the newspaper was temporarily shut down, and in April 2011 its co-founder Karim Fakhrawy was tortured to death in police custody.
Al-Wasat is considered to be the only opposition newspaper in Bahrain. We believe that the case against it is directly targeting freedom of the press and free speech. The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights asks the government of Bahrain to:
-Immediately and unconditionally cancel the suspension of the Al-Wasat newspaper;
-Stop the continuous targeting of journalists and writers and to provide a healthy platform for them to do their duty to the fullest, without pressure or intimidation;
-Fully and unconditionally respect the freedom of the press, and repeal the laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise to the right to freedom of expression, in line with Bahrain’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.