Friday, August 07, 2015

Statement by Lord Avebury, vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, on the closure of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat

A huge step back was taken by the government of Bahrain last week when it suspended the country's only opposition media outlet, the newspaper al Wasat.

According to the Govenment's statement published on the state-controlled news agency website, the suspension was occasioned by the newspaper's

"violation of the law and repeated dissemination of information that affects national unity and the Kingdom’s relationship with other countries". 

Mansoor Al-Jamri, the editor-in-chief of al-Wasat, is an internationally known journalist and in 2011 he was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Award.

The Foreign Office says that

"our aim is to help Bahrain to return to a stable and reformist state with a good human rights record, while protecting our significant defence and security interests and enhancing our bilateral relationship".

This 'temporary closure' by the Orwellian 'Information Affairs Authority' is another nail in the coffin of freedom of expression in Bahrain, coming on top of a relentless campaign by the absolutist al-Khalifa dynasty to silence the voices of dissent. 

The Government must now recognise that Bahrain was never stable and reformist, nor did it ever have a good human rights record. In 2011 the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry identified a host of violations covering torture, arbitrary detention, denial of the rights to freedom of assembly and of expression, yet the UK pretends that we are implementing Bahrain's invisible "human rights and political reform programme" through the provision of technical assistance, training, and best practice sharing.   

This policy has manifestly failed, and there should be an assessment of its outcomes with a view to its cancellation. In the meanwhile the Government should condemn the closure of al Wasat and call for its immediate restoration as the European Union did last week.


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