“We urge the authorities to cancel the warrant for Bahraini journalist Nazeeha Saeed’s arrest,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “They have no grounds for persecuting her in this way because her lawyer appealed against her conviction to the Court of Cassation on 10 August.”
The former correspondent of France 24 and Radio Monte-Carlo Doualiya who is currently abroad, Saeed received a call from the Southern Region police on 14 August notifying her that a warrant had been issued for her arrest.
According to RSF’s information, the warrant is a result of the fine she was supposed to pay after an appeal court decision on 18 July confirming her conviction by a lower court in May on a charge of working as a journalist without a permit.
Her lawyer, Hameed Al-Mullah, asked the judge concerned to rescind the arrest warrant on the grounds that an appeal has been lodged with the Court of Cassation. The judge rejected the request on 20 August.
The lower court fined Saeed 1,000 dinars (2,320 euros) when it convicted her on 25 May of working without a permit. The information ministry began the proceedings against Saeed in July 2016, after refusing to renew her press accreditation the previous month, three months after she submitted her renewal request.
It was the first time in more than ten years that the authorities refused to renew her accreditation. They also banned her from travelling abroad, without providing any explanation.
At least five Bahraini journalists working for international media outlets such as Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press, France 24 and Reuters have been refused accreditation renewal, although Saeed is the only one to have been prosecuted.
The Bahraini authorities have been cracking down harder on the media and, in a completely arbitrary manner, closed Al-Wasat, the country’s only remaining independent newspaper, last month.
Bahrain is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.