The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today urged Bahrain decriminalise press offences, saying the change was urgently needed as journalists face the prospect of going to jail for writing articles criticising politicians.
"We welcome the move by the Parliament to introduce a law that would end the fear and uncertainty our colleagues face in Bahrain," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "This is a step in the right direction for the press, especially two journalists who are facing prosecution for a critical news story."
The IFJ is supporting its affiliate, the Bahrain Journalists' Association (BJA), in welcoming a proposed amendment to the press and publication law that would eliminate jail sentences currently used for press law convictions and abolish pre-publication censorship. The BJA is calling on the Parliament to approve these changes and quickly pass the amendment into law.
As plans to vote on the amendment were underway in recent days, the Islamic Forum Society (IFS), a political party with members in the Parliament filed a complaint against Al Ayyam reporter Batool Al Sayed for a recent article criticizing the party for accusing the Municipal Affairs Ministry of corruption without offering any proof. Al Sayed and the newspaper's editor-in-chief Isa Alshaiji, who is also BJA chairman, may also face charges. If convicted, the two could face jail terms or fines under Bahrain's current press and publications law.
"The Islamic Forum Society will not manage to silence our voice and we will continue our work of looking for the truth and uncovering corruption," said Alshaiji. "This is our mission and our role to play in the democratization project."
The IFJ says the decriminalisation of the press law will remove the threat of jail for investigative journalists who report on government figures and political issues and stop the practice of using criminal prosecution to intimidate journalists.
This is not the first time the IFS has use the criminal law to silence critical journalists. The political party has filed numerous complaints against journalists for writing articles critical of its member politicians.
For more information contact the IFJ at + 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide
This article has been corrected in the fourth paragraph to clarify details about an artical criticising the Islamic Forum Society (IFS).