IAA suspends Al Wasat, Bahrain’s Only Independent Newspaper

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Al Wasat6 August 2015 – The Information Affairs Authority (IAA) today temporarily suspended Al Wasat newspaper, Bahrain’s only independent newspaper.

According to the short government statement, issued at 11:39 PM in Bahrain, this suspension is due to a violation of the law and repeated articles which “affect” national unity and Bahrain’s relations with other countries. However, the law violated is not mentioned, nor are the articles or countries affected specified. No one at Al Wasat has been informed of these facts.

This past Monday, the IAA reaffirmed that they will “take the necessary legal measures to prevent the publication of false or misleading information.”

According to the family of Mansoor Al-Jamri, the editor-in-chief of Al Wasat, the suspension was timed to coincide with his absence from country, as the government called one of his deputies to inform the paper of its suspension. However, the government mistimed its action, as Al-Jamri returned from abroad on 5 August and had already returned to work.

Mansoor Al-Jamri is an internationally known journalist and in 2011 was award the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award.

The suspension will cause immediate and large-scale financial damage to Al Wasat, as it will lose sales and advertising revenues, and could potentially jeopardise the trust of advertisers to continue working with Al Wasat.

If the newspaper closes down, it will put approximately 300 individuals out of work.

Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) said, “This is an attempt to shut down the only semi-free media in the country. Al Wasat was founded in 2002, as part of King Hamad’s reconciliation program. The government’s suspension of it now represents a total rejection of that reconciliation, thirteen years on.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy: “Bahrain is repeating its 2011 crackdown tactics. No justice was served to Alwasat founding member, Kareem Fakrawi, who was tortured to death in police custody, and no justice is being served now with this legal action today. Bahrain’s government has brought us right back to where we were in martial law four years ago.”

ADHRB and BIRD condemn the suspension of Al Wasat and strongly urge the Government of Bahrain to end the suspension immediately and respect the freedom of the press in Bahrain. We further call on the United Kingdom and the United States to condemn this suspension.

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