IFJ Welcomes Bahrain Pledge over Threats to Media as Journalists Launch an Ethics Committee

 

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

expression.

 

“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

media law.

 

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