The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the refusal of Bahraini government to lift a ban on Al Wasat newspaper which led to its closure this week.
The Federation, which represents 180 journalists unions and associations globally, also called on “the Bahraini government to stop its policy of curtailing diversity in Bahraini media and intimidating independent journalists”.
The Bahraini Journalists Association (BJA) expressed its deepest regret over the decision of Al Wasat newspaper to suspend its activities and its solidarity with all those whose contracts have been terminated.
Earlier this month the IFJ demanded that the Bahraini authorities should have immediately lifted the suspension of Al Wasat and guaranteed freedom of speech for all media organisations after the paper was accused by the Bahraini ministry of information affairs of “violating the law, (…) repeating the publication of material likely to stir up the community and affect the relations of the Kingdom of Bahrain with other countries,” and was suspended until further notice on 4 June.
On 24 June, in a message addressed to all the employees of the newspaper (Al-Wasat had 160 staff, including 30 foreigners), board chairman Adel al-Maskati wrote: “We regret to inform you that the board of directors ... has decided to terminate the employment contracts with the employees”.
Al Wasat was one of the 5 dailies in Arabic in Bahrain and was considered as an independent media outlet. It had been subject to several bans since its creation in 2002.
The Association also stressed that “its doors are open to any journalist who wants to have any legal opinion or an appointment with a lawyer, and for journalists to be paid all the end of service entitlements according to the labour laws in the Kingdom of Bahrain“.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We strongly condemn the refusal of the Bahraini government to lift the ban on Al Wasat newspaper which has forced its closure. The government must be held responsible for the loss of these jobs and the further narrowing of the space for independent journalism”.