Nazeeha Saeed, the France24 journalist who was detained and tortured in 2011 by Bahraini authorities is now being prosecuted for ‘illegal reporting.’ She was charged on claims that under Bahraini press law, Bahrainis are prohibited from working for foreign media outlets without a license. This case brings to light the way Bahraini authorities are using arbitrary means to silence freedom of expression.
The problem was that Saeed was refused a license earlier this year when hers had expired. This begs the question, was she refused a license because the authorities wanted her to no longer report? This could be supported by the fact that the Bahraini government had previously tortured her, showcasing how she is not their number one ally. In May 2011, she was tortured by the police for reporting on the Arab Spring in Bahrain, and in November 2015 the authorities decided not to prosecute her torturers. What makes matters worse is that without allowing her to have a license she is also not able to leave the country.
However, despite these obstacles she still continued to work as a correspondent. This highlights her bravery as a journalist, and as someone who wants to document and uncover the truth. Other journalists who also work for foreign outlets have told the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird) that they have been facing more pressure in the last year. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported in December 2015 that there are five journalists in prison in Bahrain, all of them freelancers.
What the case of Nazeeha Saeed, and in fact many journalists in Bahrain illustrates, is that Bahraini authorities are increasingly using more repressive means to stop reporting on what is happening in Bahrain. Perhaps some of this reporting may be critical, but it does not seem at all justifiable to use torture or repressive forces to stop real journalism in, or out the country.
Greenslade, R. ‘Bahrain prosecutes journalist in renewed crackdown on the media’, The Guardian [London] 18 July 2016