Reporters Without Borders condemns renewed efforts by the Bahraini authorities to censor online information, including leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s latest arrest on 2 April and attempts to suppress information about the mistreatment of imprisoned journalists and online activists.
The head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Nabeel Rajab was arrested for a tweet about torture in Jaw prison that he posted a week after writing an article about torture for the Huffington Post. He was sentenced so six months in prison on 20 January for allegedly insulting the police in an earlier tweet but was still at large pending a ruling on his appeal, which has been postponed until 4 May. Last week’s arrest was carried out by police who were waiting for him in about 20 police cars outside his home in Bani Jamra with a arrest warrant for using Twitter to allegedly spread false news that threatened civil peace. In a video recording of his arrest, Rajab described it as another attempt to suppress freedom of expression in Bahrain and pledged not to abandon his defence of human rights. Reporters Without Borders condemns the Bahraini government’s persecution of this human rights activist. “They are trying to silence Nabeel Rajab, a dissident who has been systematically documenting human rights violations in the Kingdom of Bahrain for years,” Reporters Without Borders programme director Lucie Morillon said. “We call for his immediate and unconditional release.” Colleagues reported on his Twitter account that Rajab was brought before a judge on 5 April on charges of inciting hatred against the government, defamation and disseminating false news. Terrible conditions in Jaw prison Mistreatment of prisoners has often been reported in the past but Jaw prison has been in the spotlight since violent clashes between inmates and guards there on 10 March. Relatives of detainees are worried because visits have been cancelled and they have received no news of their loved ones since the clashes. According to our sources, the family of Ahmed Humeidan – an internationally renowned photographer arrested in December 2012 and sentenced to ten years in prison in August 2014 – has not heard from him and is very worried by reports that he has been tortured and has been forced to spend nights outside in the cold without being allowed to use the prison’s latrines. The relatives of another detained photographer, Hussain Hubail, said that they were able to talk to Hubail for a few minutes by phone and that he told them that he and other detainees were spending their nights in a tent outside the prison compound and were subject to the same ban on using the latrines. Arrested on 31 July 2013 and sentenced to five years in prison on 28 April 2014, Hubail is ill and needs special treatment. The authorities cancelled the visits scheduled in March for the relatives of Qassim Zain El Deen (a cameraman arrested in August 2013 and sentenced to three years in prison), online activist Jassim Al-Nouaimi (arrested on 31 August 2013 and given a five-year sentence on 28 April 2014) and online activist Ali Al Mearaj (arrested on 6 January 2014 and given a 30-month sentence on 8 April 2014). Trials postponed The trials of three photographers, Ahmed Zain El Deen, Mustapha Rabea and Houssam Sroor, have been postponed until 16 April. Rabea also has a hearing scheduled for 26 April. Ahmed El Mousawi’s trial has been postponed until 23 April. Bahrain is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.