Al Jazeera station says it is puzzled by Manama’s decision to freeze its work in Bahrain

May 19, 2010

Al Jazeera television station on Wednesday said that it was “surprised and puzzled” by Bahrain’s decision to freeze its activities in the island kingdom.

“We were surprised and puzzled by news that Bahrain’s culture and information ministry has decided to temporarily freeze the activities of our bureau in Bahrain,” the pan-Arab network said. “While we deeply regret the decision that had not been officially conveyed to us, we stress that our editorial line and professional policy in covering news and issues whether their locations have not changed or been amended. We remain invariably committed to the motto we have kept since we were launched,” Al Jazeera said on its website.

Bahrain on Tuesday evening said that it had temporarily shut down the office of Al Jazeera television station for “violating professional conventions.”

“The Ministry of Culture and Information has made the decision to freeze the activities of Al Jazeera Satellite Channel office in Bahrain after the channel violated professional conventions and did not comply with the laws and regulations of the press, printing and publication law,” the ministry said in a brief statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

“The temporarily freeze will be lifted after the ministry and the channel agree on a memorandum of understanding that defines their relations in a way that preserves the rights of both parties according to the principle of reciprocity in exercising media activities in both countries,” the ministry said.

According to Al Jazeera, the Bahraini authorities barred a crew from Al Jazeera English from entering Bahrain where they were planning to record an interview with a senior United Nations official.

The ban on Al Jazeera also included Hassan Mahfoodh, the correspondent of Al, the online newsportal of the Doha-based station.

The Bahraini action against Al Jazeera is the second in eight years.

The information minister in May 2002 banned the channel from reporting from Bahrain, saying that the action was taken after the television station deliberately sought to harm Bahrain. The minister said that Al Jazeera was biased towards Israel and against Bahrain.

However, Al Jazeera was allowed back into Bahrain in 2007 and initially named a correspondent, Ghassan Buhsain, its former South Africa bureau chief, before it upgraded its representation to a regional bureau.

Relations were reinforced after the culture and information ministry commissioned Al Jazeera training centre to hold workshops to train Bahraini journalists.

No official statement was issued to explain how Al Jazeera had “violated professional conventions and did not comply with the laws and regulations of the press, printing and publication law.”

Bahraini newspapers carried the news of the ministry’s decision to freeze Al Jazeera’s bureau activities on their front page, while none of the Qatari papers referred to it. BNA posted the decision at 10 pm.

Arab countries that barred the pan-Arab station include Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco and Palestine.

Al Jazeera was started in 1996 with a loan of QR 500 million ($137 million) and a team of mostly BBC Arabic staff and quickly won the hearts and minds of Arabs through a series of unprecedented bold talk shows and an unfamiliar coverage of Arab and world events.

It achieved international fame after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington when it was the only channel to cover the war in Afghanistan live from its office in Kabul.

Al Jazeera English was launched in November 2006





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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