Journalist Support Committee: Allow foreign journalists to cover the upcoming elections in Bahrain
The Bahraini authorities must not deny accreditation to foreign journalists intending to cover the parliamentary and municipal elections scheduled for November 24th. Due to the censorship and outright ban on all forms of opposition media, foreign journalists must be free to perform their vital role as observers of these elections. The repressive environment in Bahrain at this moment in time means that Bahrain’s elections, as in 2014, will in no way adhere to international standards of what would be considered as free and fair elections.
The World Press Freedom Index 2018 ranks Bahrain as 166th out of 180 nations for press freedom.1 The difficulties in which independent journalists in Bahrain operate has the consequence that there is no form of media enabled to hold the government to account, nor do conditions exist for Bahraini journalists to scrutinise the electoral process. The task of ensuring the transparency of these elections, therefore, demands that foreign journalists can enter Bahrain and report freely on all aspects of the electoral process.
The Bahraini authorities wish to stage November's elections behind closed doors yet in the interests of accountability, it is a necessity that the policy of denying accreditation to journalists comes to an end. In recent years Bahrain has denied accreditation to journalists working for foreign news agencies including The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, France 24, and Monte Carlo Doualiya.2
The difficulty in receiving accreditation highlights a procedure which is extremely discriminatory and consequently means that any journalist whether a Bahraini or a foreign national can be criminalised and sentenced to jail if they are found to be working without a license, this was the case for Nazeeha Saeed in 2017.3 This situation ensures that Bahrain is repeatedly and systematically violating the right to freedom of expression as expressed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.4
The Journalist Support Committee demands that the Bahraini authorities stop denying accreditation and that they allow all foreign journalists into the country to cover these elections, ensuring that they can report freely without fear of reprisal. The systematic censorship and closure of all indigenous, independent news agencies in Bahrain requires that during these elections the Bahrain authorities must be indiscriminate in welcoming foreign news agencies into the country. It is not acceptable for coverage to be left to only a small selection of uncritical foreign news agencies and official channels which the Bahraini authorities wish to be the sole provider of news for the elections.5
Journalist Support Committee - Switzerland
8 October 2018