Time and again we are privileged to hear that our king, his majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Esa Al-Khalifa, is fully committed to see his vision realised in the reforms he initiated since he gained the throne. Time and again he unequivocally came out and said that he is for the freedoms of expression and he is for the improvement of the Bahraini people’s lives. At those times we get some articles praising his stance and positions in the national press; but only for those to be forgotten rather quickly and the same brain-dead heavy handed censorship re-applied, as if nothing has happened.
We are in one of those “reminder” periods once again…
A few weeks ago renowned Bahraini writer and “The Last Word” television program host, Sawsan Al-Sha’er, hosted Afaf Al-Jamri in that show in which they talked about a wide range of topics, including the dearth of parliamentary achievements in their inaugural term and other topics; however, the television censor took it upon him or herself to decide that it was against the national interest to broadcast those “derogatory” segments and editing scissors had chopped a few segments before it went to air.
That incensed Al-Sha’er, rightly, so she boycotted the program and stopped presenting it, the press took it up (arabic) and the king took notice (arabic), and once again had to step in to tell people that he respects differing opinions and that freedoms of expression are sacrosanct in Bahrain during an audience with his majesty yesterday with Ms. Al-Sha’er.
That’s all very laudable. But, I’m afraid, your majesty, that once again your Ministry of Information and the rest of the government apparatus will take note of your valuable advice for just a few days, “until things calm down”, and then they will unashamedly go back to exactly what they’ve been used to, and over-stepping the line and ignoring citizen’s rights is a certain reality.
Therefore, I respectfully suggest, your majesty, that as you are serious about these issues, and as you are the head of all powers in the Kingdom, that you issue a law – yes ignoring parliament – and put it in the constitution if you must, that will guarantee these rights in such a language that does not invite haphazard interpretation which could once again restrict our rights.
If I may further suggest, your majesty, as all advanced and most advancing countries do not have a Ministry of Information, it would do the country good to once and for all dismantle it and free the television, broadcasting, and press markets once and for all; in one stroke you would have saved your government an inordinate amount of money and much more heartache as well as increase our good shares in the world’s psyche that we are indeed a developing nation who no longer believe in packaged state propaganda.
As constructive criticism is also very high on your majesty’s mind, you might want to remove those things that people have been constructively and passionately complaining about: I draw your majesty’s attention to the inappropriate Assembly Law which took only 12 minutes to be approved by your Shura Council and which specifically flies in the face of your citizen’s freedoms and rights as human beings apart from being at variance with the various human rights protocols which the kingdom is party to, repeal Law 56 of 2002 which equated torturers with their victims, repeal Law 47 of 2002 which shackled the press and freedoms of expression, re-distributed electoral districts with fairness and amend the constitution in such a way that the parliament truly represents your people, the ability to question any minister – including the prime minister – in open parliamentary session would also be a good idea and will demonstrate that we are truly a transparent and civil society.
I am sure that there are a lot more things I can propose, your majesty, however, I shall refrain from doing so at this moment as I believe the above are sufficient to allow your citizens to live with dignity and if promulgated, would return you back to your rightful place, carried with pride on the shoulders of your happy citizens.