RSF calls for Bahraini journalist’s conviction to be overturned
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Bahraini authorities to overturn journalist Nazeeha Saeed’s conviction on a charge of working illegally, which has been upheld on appeal. RSF also calls on the authorities to stop violating media freedom.
A Manama appeal court today confirmed the fine of 1,000 dinars (2,320 euros) that a lower court imposed on Saeed on 25 May for working as a correspondent for foreign media without authorization. She used to be the Bahrain correspondent of two French media outlets, France 24 and Radio Monte-Carlo Doualiya.
The information ministry brought the charge against her a year ago after refusing to renew her press accreditation for the first time in 12 years. She was also banned from leaving the country without explanation.
Her lawyer, Hameed al Mullah, told RSF that the appeal court’s decision was a “mistake.” He said the court failed to take account of the fact that his client had kept working only while awaiting official notification of the decision not to renew her accreditation and that she had therefore committed no offence.
He now plans to file an appeal with Bahrain’s court of cassation but the court may not agree to hear it.
“The Kingdom of Bahrain must immediately quash Nazeeha Saeed’s conviction and allow her to resume working freely as a journalist again,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “The Bahraini authorities must also cease their repeated attacks on the media.”
Saeed is part of the international #FightImpunity campaign that RSF launched in November 2015 with the aim of putting pressure on governments to prosecute those responsible for crimes of violence against journalists.
For years, Saeed has been fighting for justice for the 13 hours of torture and humiliation to which she was subjected by women police officers in Rifa’a police station in 2011, after covering pro-democracy demonstrations in Manama.
The justice ministry decided in November 2015 that there was not enough evidence to prosecute those responsible for torturing Saeed. RSF condemned this decision at the time.
Saeed is the only correspondent to have been prosecuted for working without a permit, but last year the authorities refused to renew the accreditation of at least five Bahraini journalists working for international media such as Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press, France 24 and Reuters.
According to RSF’s tally, 14 journalists and citizen-journalists are currently detained in Bahrain just for covering sensitive subjects. For fear of being overthrown, the regime has been censoring dissent and cracking down on dissident journalists since 2011. The crackdown intensified again in 2016 and the last independent newspaper, Al Wasat, was closed arbitrarily a month ago.
Bahrain is ranked 164th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.