Bahraini authorities’ decision to arrest and charge four U.S. journalists for reporting on a protest marking the fifth anniversary of pro-democracy uprisings in the kingdom is a clear violation of press freedom and a signal of the kingdom’s ongoing hostility towards journalists, PEN America said today.

The four journalists, one of whom has been identified as Anna Therese Day, were reporting on clashes between protestors and security forces in the town of Sitra, south of the capital Manama, when they were arrested on Sunday, February 14. They were detained and questioned in the presence of lawyers, and later charged with “unlawful obstruction of vehicles” and “attending unlawful gatherings.” The group was released pending further investigation and have been allowed to leave the country after the U.S. Embassy reportedly intervened.

In February 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain broke out across the country in the midst of the Arab Spring. King Hamad brought in troops to violently quash the unrest, leading to at least 30 dead and over 3,000 arrests. The kingdom has also cracked down harshly on the press. Journalists were attacked, harassed, detained, and arrested during the protests and foreign journalists were expelled from the country. Following the protests, many journalists and writers faced lengthy prison sentences, with some individuals sentenced to life in prison. Since 2011, Bahrain has become one of the worst jailers of journalists in the Arab world. 

“While news of the journalists’ release and departure from Bahrain comes as a relief, the charges against them are an alarming reminder of the Bahraini kingdom’s total contempt for the role of the press in society,” said Katy Glenn Bass, deputy director of PEN’s free expression programs. “Although these four have been released, many other journalists remain in prison in Bahrain simply for doing their jobs.”

###

Founded in 1922, PEN American is an association of 4,300 U.S. writers working to breakdown barriers to free expression worldwide. www.PEN.org

CONTACT
Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: sedkins@pen.org, +1 646 4830