February 21, 2018

Additional five-year jail term for Bahraini blogger Nabeel Rajab

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by the Bahraini regime’s continuing persecution of Nabeel Rajab, an imprisoned blogger and human rights defender who received an additional five-year jail sentence today for tweets in 2015 criticizing torture in Bahrain and the Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention in Yemen.

Bahrain’s high court convicted Rajab of offending Saudi Arabia, which has been fighting Yemen’s Houthis since 2015 with the support of Bahrain and other allies, and of insulting the Bahraini interior ministry by reporting criticism of cases of torture in Bahrain’s Jaw prison.

Rajab, who is also president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, is already serving a two-year jail sentence, which he received last July on a charge of “spreading rumours and false information” for criticizing the Bahraini authorities in TV interviews.

“We condemn this unjustified sentence and call for Nabeel Rajab’s immediate release,” RSF said. “We are appalled by the way the Bahraini authorities are persecuting a man whose only crime has been to use his right to free speech to draw attention to human rights violations.”

Rajab has been arrested a total of six times since 2011. His health has suffered and he has been hospitalized several times during his many spells in prison. He was released under a royal pardon for “health reasons” in July 2015 but was arrested again in June 2016 and has been held ever since.

According to RSF’s “barometer,” a total of 15 journalists and citizen-journalists are currently detained in Bahrain in connection with the provision of news and information.

A small Gulf state that hosts the US Fifth Fleet, Bahrain saw a wave of protests in 2011 that prompted allegations that Iran was backing an attempt to topple the government. This led to a crackdown on dissent and an increase in censorship, which has been reinforced this year in the run-up to elections.

Bahrain is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.