Al Ayam Newspaper Interviews Hasan Shafaie:
No Connection between Violence and Freedom of Expression
In an interview with Al Ayam newspaper on 30 September 2009,
human rights activist Hasan Shafaie pointed out that there is a
difference between freedom of expression, peaceful political performance
and inciting violence. He added that inciting, encouraging or getting
involved in violence violates human rights. This is so because violence
directly threatens lives and also violates personal freedom and
the right to live safely. In addition to this human rights requires
a peaceful atmosphere away from violence which affects political
stability and undermines the activity of civil society institutions.
Harming the peace and stability of any country affects it economically,
socially and even its development.
Mr. Shafaie also added that riots and the use of burning bombs
are not correct methods of expressing opinion. Rather, freedom of
speech, writing and assembly should be used to voice one’s opinion,
as well as demonstrations and protests etc. Mr. Shafaie also pointed
out the fact that all the above are available and allowed in Bahrain,
and that the Government should not prohibit such activities as long
as they comply with the law. He also said that advocates of violence
do not complain about the lack of freedom of expression as, initially,
they are not interested in working within the law; especially as
they do not believe in the legitimacy of state, in other words,
they violate the law and then get involved in riots and violence
which cannot be covered by any international human rights norms.
Replying to the question: who’s behind the incitement of violence?
Mr. Shafaie stated that the instigators are known by their statements
and actions. He said that Harkat Ahrar al-Bahrain ( Bahrain Freedom
Movement) and Harakat Khalas (Salvation Movement) are the main sources
of inciting statements that come from abroad. According to Mr. Shafaie,
public statements and leaflets issued by the two actors have contributed
significantly to fuel violence and riots in the street. He stressed
that society with all its civil society institutions are also responsible.
Furthermore, the Government also bears responsibility for the protection
of its people within the context of (the protection of the right
to live). He explained that International law demands that countries
take the necessary procedures to protect its citizens’ rights in
order to deter advocates of violence; and also investigate any human
rights violation as well as ensure that those responsible are brought
to justice. It is important that such procedures take place within
the international human rights law so that these rights are not
violated with the excuse of protecting them.
Mr. Shafaie criticized the Government’s performance with regards
to dealing with international human rights reports and said that
a modest progress was achieved in this aspect. He also pointed out
that many organizations are complaining that the Government does
not respond to their letters and inquiries. Mr. Shafaie attributed
this inadequate official response to misjudging the importance of
the matter and also to some administrative problems including the
lack of having one entity in place that organizations can refer
to. Mr. Shafaie stressed that not responding to international human
rights correspondences portrays a negative image about Bahrain.
With regard to the role of Bahraini civil society organizations
and the impact of their activity abroad, Mr. Shafaie stated that
their work has had a good response abroad, and that Bahrain is no
longer a closed country. These organizations play the role of a
mediator for sending views and information to foreign media which
can be sometimes politicized or hasty.