Ruled with an iron fist by the royal family, Bahrain is notorious for imprisoning many journalists.
Bahrain’s last independent media outlet, the newspaper Al Wasat, was shut down in 2017. The country now only has TV channels and radio stations that are controlled by the Ministry of Information Affairs. There are six national dailies (four in Arabic and two in English) that are semi-governmental and owned by a member of the royal family, which cannot be criticised, of course.
Freedom of expression does not exist in Bahrain. The situation worsened during the 2011 pro-democracy protests. The government reduced the space available for independent journalism, and the media became a mouthpiece for the royal family and its supporters.
Several Bahraini journalists who have criticised the government on the internet from abroad have been accused of “cybercrimines”. The country has no recent media laws and the legislation in force for decades is totally out of step with the realities on the ground and the evolution of journalism over the past 50 years.
Media outlets owned by the government or by members of the royal family are allowed to work for politicians, members of parliament or influential entrepreneurs. This creates conflicts of interest that cause the media to lose their financial independence and affect their editorial line.
Bahraini society and religious leaders exert a great deal of pressure on journalists that dissuades them from tackling certain subjects such as gender, sexuality or religion.
After being charged with participating in protests or supporting terrorism, professional and citizen journalists have been sentenced to long terms – sometimes for life – in prison, where they are mistreated. Some have had their citizenship revoked. Since 2016, Bahraini journalists working for international media outlets have encountered difficulties in renewing their accreditation.