King’s Freedom of Expression Vow Ignored

Journalist Ja’afar Al-Jamri of Al-Wasat being sued for libel

No sooner than our king vowing to protect the freedoms of expression in Bahrain, than we get yet another journalist dragged in for questioning by the public prosecutor!

The honour this time goes to Ja’afer Al-Jamri of Al-Wasat with a complaint brought against him by a government ex-employee for libel even though it has been proven that the complainant was in the wrong! This of course gives rise to various questions, chief amongst them is why does the public prosecution bother with these cases? Wouldn’t it have been better for them to throw the complaint out and save themselves some time?

Not so, it seems, and I agree with Radhi Al-Mousawi’s conclusions in this regard: this continuous hauling of opinion writers and journalists to the public prosecutor is the first line of “warning” these people to toe the line, especially when it is tied with criticism against the government, one of its employees or any other person society deems as “influential”.

This method is quite effective actually and I can tell you this from first hand experience. Not that I have stopped criticising (constructively still, mind you) but this method has been successful in varying degrees in silencing opinion writers who do not wish to spend some time being questioned, nor have their jobs and livelihood put in jeopardy. I have absolutely no problem with those who chose to take heed of these warnings and I completely understand why they did so. What I do have a problem with is that it looks like the government still regards criticism as “disrespect” – probably in a tribal mentality – rather than a freely provided consultancy to better its ways!

His majesty understands this point fully, I feel, which is exactly why he made his vow only a couple of days ago that he fully supports the God-given freedom of expression. So it just remains now to translate his vision and inculcate it fully in written laws which should be coded in a way to protect those freedoms as his majesty understands and wishes.

One thing that would speed that process up is to instruct parliament to finish discussing Law 47/2002’s Press & Publications Law amendments – which magically supplanted Ebrahim Bashmi’s much better proposal – the parliament started discussing in its last term and has not touched in the almost inaugural 100 days of its convening.

Ja’afar, my friend, I am with you all the way. I do not see how you committed a wrong. On the contrary, all you’ve done is provide free consultancy for which you should have been thanked!

  • vagabondblogger
    2 March 2007

    Wow, this would be pretty scary, given the recent jailing of an Egyptian blogger. This isn’t a problem just in the Middle East though, but one that persistes everywhere and with a variety of techniques. It’s usually a symptom of governments or groups of people (Nixon, Cheney) who are living in like-minded insulated bubbles. Any dissent and they’re out to make an example of someone, in order to ward off further criticisms (scare tactics.) Good luck to him.

  • sillybahrainigirl
    2 March 2007

    Sigh! I will also elect to keep my BIG mouth shut on this topic.

  • Ingrid
    2 March 2007

    I have read in the mainstream media about what is going on in Bahrain and it is getting international notice. I hope that the situation will get better. Btw.. I like your ‘no shi’i no sunni’ button. It is about time for the to go by the way side. In Europe there have been so many killings because it was Protestant vs Catholic..
    all the best,

  • z
    2 March 2007

    Are we take this as a step up in the warning-rhetoric?

    “Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Eisa Al Khalifa has said studies are needed to allay concerns about potential deterioration of journalistic standards should the market become flooded with newspaper titles, Gulf News reported.
    Bahrain has eight daily newspapers, six Arabic and two English. King Hamad reiterated his support for a free press to be allowed to operate in the kingdom.”

  • LuLu
    2 March 2007

    Don’t you think a ruler can make freedom happens if he/she really wanted to?

    I give up

    2 March 2007

    I told you it’s only a thing that we brag in the press, then it never happenes, the king want’s something to happen and as usual some people don’t understand what he want to say.

    This kingdom is hopeless. :blush: