Tag Archives press-law

Daily Tribune trumps the multitude of incumbents, puts them to shame

Daily Tribune trumps the multitude of incumbents, puts them to shame

If you’re in Bahrain, you must be aware of the infamous “terrorism plotters” case, of whom my friend and fellow blogger Ali Abdulemam is one of the accused. This case, like others like it, has the now customary gag order by the court which the cowardly press go to great lengths to “respect”, rather than do their duty and challenge such a draconian measure. So it’s with quite some pleasure that I read the following coverage in today’s Daily News in which they detail the mass resignation of the original lawyers and their attempted replacement by the court with fresh recruits. Their efforts were rewarded by 22 out of the newly appointed 25 refusal to take up the case of their assignees due to “non-cooperation and non-commissioning” of the defendants. But, that didn’t stop the court from throwing justice out of the window and charge ahead with the case, even if the defendants have no legal representation!

If that doesn’t smack of political underpinnings to this case, I don’t know what does.

Here’s the article in today’s DT, which is, by the way, much more of a pleasure to read rather than the flaccid GDN. I even subscribed and not regretted it since.

click image to enlarge

Have a wonderful Christmas, and spare a thought to those souls languishing in prison for exercising their rights.


Retooling the press law

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The Bahraini Press and Publications Law number 47 of 2002 has been contentious since the day it was promulgated. It has gone through a couple of revisions, one of them unwritten when the prime minister ordered a freeze on journalists’ imprisonment, but it fell far short from what journalists and writers were striving for.

The Shura Council put in an alternative law which has been lauded by many that it is the law under which journalists and opinion writers would be comfortable working under as it is fairer and removed the very damaging link between it – the press law – and the Penal Code, and removed all possibilities of the journalists sent to jail due to their writings.

The king spoke against the current Press and Publications law twice, once when he was inaugurating the parliamentary term and the other time more directly on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day a couple of days ago. With this level of political pressure, it was no surprise that wheels were put immediately into motion; but what motion it is!

In its weekly session held yesterday, the Cabinet declared that no journalist or writer is to be imprisoned for publishing their opinions. Wonderful! But even though I did not personally read the proposed amendments they sent to Parliament for discussion and ratification, I do not see any mention of the untying of the Press and Publications law and the Penal Code. In fact, what I do see is that this is the exact same thwarting law, but in a different guise:

The amendment seeks to shield those who exercise their right to freedom of expression from punishment as long as they preserve the political system’s privacy and fundamentals, the Kingdoms heritage and general decency.Bahrain Tribune

Sorry? What does that bit about the as long as mean? To me – and I might be completely mistaken here – it means that nothing has changed, and nothing will change. And when you consider that on the very same day the cabinet sent its “amended” Law to the Parliament, the Shura Council finally sent its version – which is arguably much better than the Cabinet’s efforts – to Parliament too. The Parliamentary by-laws are quite clear, they give precedence to government initiated laws – thereby – negating or at least infinitely delaying the Shura Council’s efforts ever coming to light.

So my advice to you guys is to not to start jumping up and down in happiness at this new development by the Cabinet. The “gotchas” in it are actually much more severe than even the older iteration.

It makes me really wonder – once again – if the government, represented by the Cabinet, is doing its damnest to thwart the wishes of the king of the land, on purpose!


Emirates retools press law

Good news this morning from a southerly direction that we hope that our newly appointed minister of Information as well as our parliamentarians will immediately emulate:

UAE rules journalists not to be jailed over work

9 hours ago

DUBAI (AFP) — The prime minister of the United Arab Emirates decreed on Tuesday that journalists should not be jailed over their work, two days after two were jailed for libel, the state WAM news agency reported.

Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum “has issued instructions … not to imprison journalists for reasons related to their work,” said the head of the National Media Council, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

Sheikh Mohammad stated that “other measures can be taken to penalise a journalist who has committed a particular violation,” added Sheikh Abdullah, who is also foreign minister.

Abdullah said the prime minister also called for speeding up the enactment of a new press law in line with amendments introduced by the National Media Council.

The amendments drop imprisonment as a penalty for press offences.

Sheikh Mohammad is also ruler of the booming emirate of Dubai, a member of the UAE that hosts scores of regional and international news organisations operating out of Internet and media free zones.

His move came two days after two Dubai-based journalists — an Indian and an Egyptian working for the English-language daily Khaleej Times — were sentenced to two months for libel, according to local press reports.

They have since been released on bail and are appealing.

Two UAE nationals were also recently sentenced to jail for defamation on an Internet site in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah, another UAE member, and are appealing the rulings. The website has been closed.

Abdullah Omran, lawyer of one of the two, hailed Sheikh Mohammad’s decision and said he hoped it would apply to Internet sites.

“We welcome this positive move, which proves that our wise leadership is responsive to the aspirations of its people. We hope it will extend to electronic sites, and that violators will be penalised by measures other than imprisonment since they are electronic journalists,” Omran told AFP.

Omran is the lawyer for Mohammad Rashed al-Shehhi, owner of the website who has been jailed for a total of 17 months in two defamation cases involving local officials.

Fellow Emirati Khaled al-Asli was sentenced earlier in September to five months in jail on charges of writing an article on the site that slandered a local official.

Asli, who has denied writing the article posted under a pen name, has been released on bail while Shehhi is behind bars.


Defamation case thrown out by High Court

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The High Court dismissed a defamation case brought by the president of the Arabian Gulf University Dr Rafia Ghubash against journalist Hisham Al-Zayani.

I wish to offer my congratulations to Mr. Al-Zayani for winning the case, even though the decision has taken over 2 years to be determined. This rare victory for the written word should be guardedly welcomed as the current Press and Publications Law still allows for the imprisonment of journalists and it is high time that it is changed.


It’s over

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I’m glad to inform you that the libel case levied against me by the minister of agricultural affairs and municipalities Mansour bin Rajab has officially been dropped this morning and the judge has accepted our joint signed document.

As such, I have removed the gag!

I’ll blog more about the whole experience at a later date, maybe even write a book, goodness knows I have enough material to fill a few pages up!

Thanks once again to everyone for your invaluable support especially to Adel Marzooq and Fatima Al-Hawaj for their tremendous unselfish efforts exerted on my behalf.


Demands for change are gathering apace

The weather was hot, the temperature was certainly over 40 degrees Celsius and the humidity wasn’t forgiving and neither was the sun, but the intelligentsia or Bahrain gathered yesterday in front of the Parliament building to demonstrate in commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day, in solidarity with Isa Al-Shayji who is demanding that MP Mohammed Khaled’s parliamentary immunity be lifted in order for him to stand trial accused of publicly insulting him and of course to show the community’s refusal of that heinous Press and Publications Law of 2002 in which journalists could be (and have) summarily imprisoned for simply practicing the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression and demanded that that law be withdrawn, amended or replaced.

World Press Freedom Day demonstration in Bahrain

The number of people present were a cross section of society but all of whom share a basic understanding that they support the basic human right of the freedom to express oneself without fear of persecution.

In spite of the heat and humidity, the general atmosphere was happily cautious; yet generally hopeless that we could look to an the impotent parliament to our backs of doing anything germane to help in raising the bar and allowing this great society to elevate itself to a status equal to those it admires for freedoms others take for granted.

Even though the general average age of those gathered was certainly in the twenties, all were aware of these facts and everyone’s hope was tempered; optimism does not come cheap in these circles, all have suffered directly, or know someone who has, a judge’s gavel which shattered the even tenuous illusion of freedom gained.

Greetings done, hands shaken, smiles exchanged and the general somewhat expectant gaiety was not even shattered by the arrival of a jovial officer soon after the first few members gathered at the announced time. Half an hour or so later our numbers were bolstered with a few more individuals each of which carries the weight of whole cross-sections of society: Qassim Haddad, Ebrahim Sharif, Hassan Madan and a plethora of human rights activists lending their much needed support.

90 minutes or so after the initial gathering final communiqués were read, placards were stowed and streams of these guardians of the freedoms of expression started to drift away, hopefully to continue to exert and sustain pressure on parliament and government to force infusion blood into flaccid brains to get them to realise that if left alone, the press can and will be the ideal and unwavering partner for progress they sorely need.


Demonstration at Parliament on Thursday, be there!

«الصحفيين» تدعو للاعتصام أمــــام «النيــابي» الخميــس المقبــل

ناشدت جمعية الصحفيين البحرينية جموع الصحافيين والمثقفين والفنانين البحرينيين ”الاعتصام أمام مجلس النواب الخميس المقبل، احتجاجا على مجمل ما أنتجه المجلس في دورته الحالية من قرارات ولجان تحقيق بحق الثقافة والإبداع وحرية الكلمة”.

وفي سياق متصل، استغربت الجمعية في بيان أصدرته أمس (الأحد) رفض لجنة الشؤون التشريعية بالمجلس رفع الحصانة عن عضو كتلة المنبر الإسلامي النائب محمد خالد في القضية التي رفعها ضده رئيس الجمعية عيسى الشايجي.

وعبرت الجمعية في بيانها عن ”كامل تضامنها مع الزميل الشايجي فيما تعرض له من إهانة وقذف مباشر من قبل النائب خالد”ØŒ معربة عن قلقها من ”اتجاه الكتل النيابية الأعضاء في اللجنة للمساس بحرية الصحافة وقمعها معتمدين على الحصانة النيابية ”ØŒ وفق البيان. واعتبرت الجمعية، هذا الموقف من قبل النواب ”مخزٍ، ويطرح الكثير من الأسئلة عن مصداقية المجلس من جهة وعن تلك الوعود التي أطلقوها في الدفاع عن الصحافيين وإصدار قانون صحافة متطور من جهة أخرى”.

The Bahrain Journalists Association has called for a demonstration in front of the Parliament building this Thursday at 5pm 4.30pm to show to denounce the dearth of parliamentary output in its first session.

The BJA also expresses its deep concern for parliament’s refusal to remove MP Mohammed Khaled’s parliamentary immunity so that he can be tried in a case levied against him by the president of the BJA Isa Al-Shaiji for defamation and slander.

I plan to be there, it is important to demonstrate to the “people’s representatives” that they are anything but. Especially with the ridiculous efforts exerted by them collectively to restrict personal and all other freedoms.


Case Deferred

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We went to the court this morning with a number of people already present and offered their support. But due to the main judge’s family bereavement, for which I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Shaikh Mohammed bin Ali on the passing of his mother, the case has been administratively deferred to be heard on May 8th.

I would also like to sincerely thank everyone who was present and all of those who called, emailed and texted their support as well.

In particular I would like to thank the lead advocate Ms. Fatima Al-Hawaj and the legal team offered by the Bahrain Human Rights Society to assist Ms. Al-Hawaj in the case, Lawyers Nawaf Al-Sayed and Lo’ay Qarouni; Tawfiq Al-Rayyash, Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the head of the Bahrain Journalists Union Mohammed Fadhel, journalists Mohammed Al-Sawwad from Al-Waqt (who was involved very recently in a similar case), Mohammed Aslam of the GDN, Mohammed Abbas of Reuters, Sandeep Singh Grewal from the Bahrain Tribune and Adel Al-Shaikh from Al-Wasat.

I would also like to sincerely thank my family who have always stood by me. My wife Frances, my brother Jamal and sister Maha as well as my children. I am sure that if my other siblings were in Bahrain they would have not hesitated an instant by being present to offer their support.

The legal team have asked for the case’s documents for their review and preparation, and we await the new court’s date to present our case before the High Criminal Court.


Thoughts on tomorrow

Thank you all for your unstinting support. I truly appreciate it.

What I want to emphasize, if I may, this is not really a case against Mahmood Al-Yousif as much as it is a case against the tenets of the freedom of expression.

We, the people, should not be cowed into a status of never questioning or criticising a government official no matter how high that position is. They have to realise themselves, or be made to realise that the positions they occupy being called “civil servants” is no accident of nomenclature, but fact.

Unfortunately, both the Penal Code and the Press & Publications Law specifically not only discourages this civic responsibility of criticism, but glaringly criminalise it!

Is it any wonder that these very officials have risen within their own spheres to a status of demi-gods, inviolate, unapproachable and completely disconnected with the very people they are sworn to serve?

Parliament, on the other hand, continues to prevaricate and hasn’t even scheduled discussions on a retooled Press & Publications law which will elevate freedoms of expression in all its forms, concerning themselves more with perceived sorcerers and witches!

No, this is not a case against Mahmood Al-Yousif and never was. What I have written is rather mild when you consider it. This is a case purposefully levied to silence criticism.

Today it is me. Tomorrow it is everyone who dares to even glance “wrongly” at a public official, even if that official happens to be a janitor.


At the High Court at 9:30 for 10:00

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We’re all gathering tomorrow morning at the Court building at 9:30. Cases are looked at starting at 10:00am.

It’s a freedom of expression case, any way you look at it. Please show your opposition to attempts to stifle this freedom by being there.

Thank you.