Bahrain urged to drop charges against correspondent

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and French public radio broadcaster France Médias Monde (FMM) call on the Bahraini authorities to abandon their prosecution of Nazeeha Saeed on a charge of working as a correspondent for foreign media outlets without a permit.

Nazeeha Saeed is facing a possible fine of up to 1,000 dinars (2,400 euros) as a result of the complaint that an information ministry official brought against her last summer. She is to be tried in Manama on 16 January.

Her situation has been delicate since last June, when she learned that the authorities refused to renew her accreditation as the Bahraini correspondent of France 24 and Radio Monte-Carlo Doualiya (both part of FMM).

“We reiterate our support for Nazeeha Saeed and urge the authorities to immediately drop the charges against her so that she can work freely as a journalist again,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The persecution of Saeed is unwarranted and just confirms that the kingdom’s authorities are bent on silencing independent media voices.”

Saeed’s lawyer, Hameed Mullah, told RSF that her conviction would constitute a grave violation of media freedom. He also reported that he had tried in vain with the court authorities last October to gain access to the prosecution case against her.

FMM president and CEO Marie-Christine Saragosse said: “We welcome the supportive campaigning by international media freedom NGOs such as RSF since last July, and we ask the Bahraini authorities to cancel these groundless proceedings against Nazeeha Saeed and let her resume her job of freely reporting the news in her country as soon as possible.”

When summoned by the public prosecutor’s office last July, Saeed was told that she was being investigated for working as foreign correspondent without authorization. She received the summons shortly after being banned from travelling abroad. No explanation was given for the ban at the time.

Saeed enjoys a great deal of international support. More than 40 NGOs issued a joint appeal on 28 July condemning the orchestrated harassment to which she is being subjected by the Bahraini authorities.

This is far from being her first run-in with the regime. She has for years been fighting for justice after being tortured by police officers for 13 hours in 2011 in Rifa’a police station, to which she was summoned because of her coverage of pro-democracy demonstrations in Manama.

In November 2015, the judicial authorities decided that the police officers responsible for torturing Saeed would not be prosecuted. Insufficient evidence was given as grounds for the decision.

One of the world’s biggest prisons for media personnel, with 14 journalists and bloggers currently detained, the Kingdom of Bahrain is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 13.01.2017