RSF urges Bahrain to drop charges against correspondent Nazeeha Saeed

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Bahrain authorities to drop its prosecution of the journalist Nazeeha Saeed on the eve of a verdict in her case, and to halt their efforts to intimidate journalists.

Nazeeha Saeed, former Bahrain correspondent of France 24 and Radio Monte-Carlo Doualiya, was accused by the information ministry last summer of working as foreign correspondent without authorization after the ministry refused to renew her accreditation in June. She is facing a possible fine of up to 1,000 dinars (2,400 euros).

“RSF reiterates its request for the charges against this journalist to be dropped to allow her to renew her permit and work in the country again, without fear of reprisals,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.

“More broadly, RSF condemns increasing intimidation of journalists in the country and, in particular, a tougher attitude noticed recently towards the international media.”

Saeed is the only journalist to have been charged, but her case is not unique. Last year, the authorities refused to renew the accreditation of at least five local journalists working for international news organizations, including Agence France-Presse (AFP), the Associated Press, France 24 and Reuters.

The former AFP photographer in the country, Mohammed Al Shaikh, whose accreditation was also not renewed in 2016, was arrested in March this year when he returned from a foreign trip. He was questioned about his work for several hours at the offices of the Criminal Investigation Department before being released without charge.

More recently, hearings in two cases against the noted blogger and human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, due to have been held on 16 and 17 May, were postponed until 30 May and 14 June because of his state of health. He underwent surgery in April and was unable to attend court.

One of the cases concerns television interviews about human rights in Bahrain that he gave in 2014 and 2015 and the other concerns a series of tweets criticizing the military intervention in Yemen and the use of torture in Bahrain’s Jaw prison.

Another case that is a cause of concern for RSF is that of 29-year-old sports photograph Hassan Ghareeb, who was arrested while he was covering a match at the Al-Ahli football club’s ground in Manama.

According to our sources, he was arrested in June 2014 and held for three-and-a-half months, accused of having taken part in an attack on a police checkpoint while he was actually at the Al-Ittihad football club.

He was sentenced in September 2015 to five years’ imprisonment, although he was not taken into custody at the time. RSF is still unaware of the reasons for his arrest. An appeal is scheduled to be heard on 6 June.

Bahrain is among the countries in the Middle East with the most journalists in prison, with at least 14 behind bars, including citizen journalists. It is ranked 164th of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

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Updated on 24.05.2017