Daily newspaper fails to publish after journalists go on strike in unprecedented move in Bahrain’s media history

April 15, 2010

In an unprecedented move in Bahrain’s media history, the staff of Al Waqt newspaper went on strike after the management said that they did not have enough funds to pay them.
The striking personnel did not report to work on Wednesday, causing the paper not to publish on Thursday.

Editor-in-chief Fareed Ahmad Hassan said that the strike would be only for one day, but did not rule out that the work stoppage would persist if the staff did not wish to resume work until the situation improved.

“The staff held a meeting last week to discuss their conditions and agreed on forming a three-member committee representing the editorial team, the administration and the technicians to talk with the management,” he said.

Negotiations were on Thursday and the management explained the financial difficulties the newspaper was facing and urged the personnel to appreciate the situation.

However, promises that investors would inject extra cash into the paper did not convince the committee members who said that they would go ahead with the strike. They initially wanted scheduled it for Sunday before agreeing to give the management more time and postpone it until Thursday.

Sources said that the personnel later decided to resort to the industrial action on Wednesday so that the newspaper will not appear on Thursday.

“The non publication of the newspaper on Friday will not have the strong impact it would have on Thursday,” they agreed.

Khalil Buhazza, a journalist with the paper, said that the pain caused by the non-publication was “terrible.”

“The pain we feel about the paper not hitting the stands is much more acute than the suffering from not receiving salaries,” he said. 

The newspaper paper will now hold an extraordinary general assembly by the end of the month to assess the situation and decide whether to inject money to rescue the paper.

Al Waqt has been struggling to earn money in an increasingly difficult market and its situation has been compounded by the onslaught of the global financial crisis. Its staff last year voiced anger after they were not paid their salaries on time. However, the issue was settled through compromises.

In a bid to save money, the paper took several drastic actions and dropped off several international columnists.

Talks about a possible purchase of the majority of the shares by a group of businessmen earlier this year did not materialize, plunging the paper into a deeper crisis.

Founded in 2006 as a joint venture, Al Waqt (The Time) defines itself as a non-partisan and non-governmental newspaper that is not run by businesses or ruled by alliances.

“We are committed to the respect of public and individual freedoms and believe in the right of people to express their views peacefully. We believe in equality and tolerance, respect political legitimacy and resent sectarianism,” the paper’s mission statement says.

Al Waqt was the fifth daily newspaper to be published in Bahrain’s modern history and Ibrahim Bashmi, a member of the Shura Council (upper chamber) has served as the chairman of the editorial team. The paper is often associated with leftist-nationalist tendencies.

Its website did not post any comment on the non publication of the paper on Thursday.



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About the author

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

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