The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed two
significant developments for Bahrain journalism during yesterday’s World Press
Freedom Day Celebrations.
The Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) announced the creation of
a media self-regulatory body to promote journalists ethics as an alternative to
the government controlled model contained in the draft media law. On the same
day, the King of Bahrain, Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah, said, in a public
statement, that he will not accept any journalist to be imprisoned nor any
newspaper closed down for exercising their constitutional rights to free
“This is very good news for Bahrain journalists and an important
achievement for the Bahrain Journalists’ Association that has been working
tirelessly over recent years for improved rights of journalists and better media
standards,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
Earlier this year, a new draft media law that included provisions
for a media regulatory body that would be closely controlled by the government.
The plans were roundly denounced by the IFJ, the BJA and the Bahrain Ethical
Journalism Initiative Committee, which set about preparing counter proposals
that guaranteed its independence from government.
The new Media Support Committee (MSC) launched as a part of the BJA,
has the following goals:
1. To advocate and
campaign for press freedom and good governance in media,
2. To contribute to education
within society on the role of free media in democracy,
3. To mediate problems that
arise between media and their audience,
4. To promote access to
public information and to information technology that will ensure the full
participation of citizens in democratic society.
The MSC is made up of representatives of the media community and
key civil society groups including representatives of the Journalists’
Association, the Publishers, the Workers’ Union, the Women’s Union, the Bar
Association and Human Rights Activists. Within the MSC will be a Media
Complaints Commission (MCC) to deal with public complaints about media content
and to mediate potential disputes.
The BJA further called on the government and parliament to declare
support to the initiative and to co-operate with the media community and civil
society to raise media standards.
“Creating an environment to ensure free media and independent
journalism, without any form of legal or political pressure, must be a priority
for government and the parliament” said Isa Al Shaiji, BJA chairman.
The King’s commitment to upholding the constitutional guarantees of
freedom of expression will give further confidence to a journalists’ community
that its concerns are finally being listened to and that journalists’ rights
will be properly protected in the parliamentary deliberations over the draft
In a separate development the BJA expressed regret over the
decision to close of one of Bahrain’s biggest newspapers, ALWAQT, for financial
reasons. In its closing statement, ALWAQT said that it fought hard for its
independence and was eventually defeated by the loss of advertising revenue.The BJA further expressed solidarity with
the employees and demanded that the Directors respect the rights of editors and
staff to receive their full entitlement.
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide