Bahrain Journalists Association rejects amendments to Press Law as “insufficient”

February 14, 2010
By

Isa Al Shaiji with parliament Speaker Khalifa Al Dhahrani

Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) has rejected the draft press law submitted by a parliamentary committee, saying that it failed to meet the aspirations of the media. “We deplore the insistence of the service committee in the lower chamber on a link between the press law and the penal law,” BJA chairman Isa Al Shaiji said. “We resent this link because it makes it possible to imprison journalists. We have repeatedly warned against allowing this link, but the committee did not care about our demands,” he said in a statement ahead of the first parliamentary debate on the draft.

The 40-member lower chamber is scheduled to review the draft on Tuesday amid concerns that it would reinforce controversial articles.

“We want all journalists in Bahrain to head to the parliament on Tuesday to show to the MPs their displeasure with the draft law. We have often said that putting journalists in prison clashed with the reforms launched by King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa and with the demands of the people working in the media sector,” said Al Shaiji whose association is the main umbrella for hundreds of Bahrain-based journalists. However, sources familiar with the draft said that there has been a “gross misreading of the new text and that the latest amendments gave journalists greater freedom. “There are no prison clauses in the new draft and reference to the high criminal court for instance is to impose fines since civil courts deal with disputes, but do not make people pay fines,” the sources said. “If you look at Article 42, you see that any publisher found guilty of inciting murder, pillage or arson is made to pay a fine between BD1,000 ($2,650) and BD5,000 ($13,255). A publisher encourages killings and acts of sabotage, but is not sent to prison.” The BJA has spearheaded a strong lobbying campaign to amend the 2002 Press Law and abolish prison terms stipulated in the controversial legislation. However, its efforts were staunchly resisted by conservative MPs in the lower chamber who insisted on including a clause to imprison journalists who criticised officials or parliamentarians and argued that eliminating prison terms meant giving journalists “undeserved special privileges.” King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa has repeatedly called for the enactment of “progressive laws that guarantee the independence of the press and the freedom of honest and responsible expression.”

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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