Today is World Press Freedom Day, a day that is being commiserated more than celebrated in many nations, including Bahrain, where journalists and bloggers are currently under siege by government.
Ironically, one of those world leaders celebrating World Press Freedom Day is King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, one of 38 heads of state who have been named “predators of press freedom” by Reporters Without Borders. He issued a statement today saying that he believes “a free, impartial and independent Press is the backbone of democratic development.”
However, he also offered a few disclaimers, encouraging media to “move away from provoking hatred” as well as from provoking “violence, vandalism or terrorism” and “breaking the law or violating public morals and people's dignity.”
Though the king said that “no one will be harmed because of peaceful and civilised expressions of opinion under the law,” more than 70 journalists, online writers, and bloggers have recently been fired, arrested, or threatened in Bahrain, according to an online spreadsheet released by Bahrain Center for Human Rights today.
Nearly 20 of those mentioned on the spreadsheet are bloggers or online activists. Among them is the founder of Al Dair online forum, Zakariya Al Aushayri, who died in prison on April 9, 2011. Others have been arrested, interrogated, or classified as “traitors”. Founder of BahrainOnline.org and Global Voices Advocacy contributor Ali Abdulemam was previously arrested and is now living undercover within Bahrain.
Bahrain is currently under a state of emergency since a crackdown on protests that began on February 14. See Global Voices special coverage.