Recommendation 1724 (a)

To consider relaxing censorship and allowing the opposition greater access to television broadcasts, radio broadcasts and print media. The continuing failure to provide opposition groups with an adequate voice in the national media risks further polarising the political and ethnic divide.

Status

No details have yet been released about proposed media reforms. Meanwhile, the government continues to block websites and exclude opposition access to TV and print media. On and after 4 February 2012, the government blocked several sites that were live-streaming audio and video from a licensed opposition political gathering. Many sites are blocked in Bahrain, including a video of police brutality, live-streaming websites justin.tv, ustream.tv, twitcasting.tv, the website of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the website of opposition e-newspaper Bahrain Mirror, and popular forum site BahrainOnline. A handful of media sites such as PressTV are also blocked. A number of sites providing proxy or anonymity tools are blocked, including Tor and Google Translate's webpage translation feature. This continued blocking violates the spirit of the recommendation, as it constitutes continuing rather than relaxing censorship, and has led Reporters Without Borders to classify Bahrain as an "Enemy of the Internet." However, the government did recently unblock Al Wefaq's website.

Opposition group Al Wefaq requested licenses from the Information Affairs Authority to start a daily Arabic newspaper and set up a TV channel. The current status of this request is unknown.

Government Claim

(source: www.govactions.bh on 3/3/2012)

GoB, with the Information Affairs Authority taking the lead, accepted the proposals of the Independent French media experts regarding this recommendation. Please see the IAA's detailed public plan on how this recommendation will be implemented. The highlights include the IAA's plans on relaxing censorship and commissioning programmes designed to increase participation of all political groups. One of the key developments will be the establishment of a new Higher Media Board, which will be independent of the Government, to regulate content; this follows the French and Moroccan model. The HMB will be entrusted with the responsibility to ensure the respect of pluralistic expression of ideas and opinions in radio and TV programmes, particularly regarding political information programmes.

The experts are drawn from globally recognised media consultancy IMCA and are being led by Pascal Josephe, a highly experienced regulator who has occupied senior positions, including executive vice-president and programme director, at TF1, Radio France and France Televisions. Josephe will be supported by Didier Sapaut, the former Vice Director of the French Ministry of Communications and Secretary General of France Televisions. The team included regulatory specialists in new digital technologies, radio broadcasting and audience measurement and analysis.

IMCA has assisted a number of countries transition their media regimes to an open access framework. In particular, IMCA worked with eleven Eastern and Central European Governments to reform their laws and administrative schemes to bring them in accord with the best international standards, which was a prerequisite to these countries joining the European Union.

Recommendation 1724 (a)
Relax censorship and allow opposition greater access to TV, radio, and print media
Status: Violated
Government claim: In Progress

Summary:

  • Violation Recently, the government blocked websites that were streaming video and audio of speeches from a licensed opposition political gathering
  • Violation Websites blocked in Bahrain include live-streaming sites, human rights organizations, opposition news sources, foreign news sites, local forums, and Tor