18 July 2016 – The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy is extremely concerned after Bahrain’s Public Prosecution yesterday charged Nazeeha Saeed, correspondent for France24, with illegally reporting for foreign media. It is the latest crackdown in a series of repressive measures being undertaken against the country’s civil society. Saeed now faces a fine of up to 1000 Bahraini Dinars (GBP £2000).
Nazeeha Saeed was called to the Public Prosecution on Sunday 17 July for interrogation and later charged under article 88 of Law 47/2002, which regulates the press. The regulation states that no Bahraini can work for foreign media outlets without a license. Licenses, which are granted by the Information Affairs Authority (IAA), last for one year, and their renewal can be arbitrary. When Saeed’s license expired earlier in 2016, the IAA refused its renewal.
Bahrain’s authorities have also put Saeed on a travel ban, which she only discovered after attempting to board a flight in June. Saeed is one of approximately twenty known individuals who have been banned from travel since the beginning of June.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “Bahrain is making real journalism impossible. Nazeeha Saeed is a leading reporter, and that is why they are trying to silence her. Bahrain’s international allies, the UK and US, must condemn this regressive assault on the fourth estate.”
Nazeeha Saeed has reported for Radio Monte Carlo for 12 years, and for France 24 for seven years. She was fully licensed throughout. When her last license expired earlier this year, the Information Affairs Authority refused to renew it, however she continued her work as a correspondent until yesterday’s events.
Other journalists working for foreign press have also privately told BIRD that they are facing increased pressure in the last year.
Press freedoms are very constrained in the country. Freelancers and citizen journalists are not considered journalists under the law and can be fined for practising without a license. It is a criminal offence to spread “false news” or news which “offends” the Government of Bahrain or members of the ruling family. Last year, the only independent newspaper, Al Wasat, was barred from publishing for two days, though the ban was later lifted.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported in December 2015 that there are five journalists in prison in Bahrain, all of them freelancers.