Press Freedom in Bahrain is Growing

On 12th April 2009 around ten trade unions and journalist societies discussed reports regarding freedom of press and media in their respective countries which are members of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The 2008 Annual Report on Bahrain affirmed that Bahrain enjoys a growing and diverse level of media freedom, despite the existence of some challenges due to the censorship of certain internet sites, which has provoked debate amongst interested parties.

The report stated that Bahrain witnessed numerous political debates and religious confrontations throughout 2008, where many politicians criticized the media for being politicized in dealing with the subject as well as inciting sectarianism in the country. This criticism led the Bahrain Journalist Association (BJA) to organize a campaign against sectarianism in the media. The report added that the BJA represents a large group in various parts of the media. The main objective of BJA is the protection of freedom of press and the defence of journalists from legal actions by providing legal aid, organizing public protests and lobbying activities. The BJA played a major role in the preparation of the bill of the new Media Law and in demanding the recognition of electronic media.

On the other hand, Mohammed Al Sawad, a member of the Board of Directors of BJA, said that the number of legal cases filed against journalists had decreased in 2008 compared to 2007 from 28 cases to only eight. Al Sawad pointed out that the cases against the journalists were filed by officials and not societies, institutions or individuals. Al Sawad called for the amendment of an article in the Penal Code which provides for the imprisonment of journalists.