Gulf media crackdown: Bahrain closes down nation's 'only independent newspaper' Al-Wasat

Amidst increasing restrictions on the press in the Gulf nation, authorities in Bahrain have shut down Al-Wasat, the country’s only independent newspaper, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports.

HRW quoted a Government statement claiming Al-Wasat had “created discord and damaged Bahrain’s relations with other countries”.

HRW then cited the fact the paper, based in the city of Manama, had reported a rural uprising in al-Hoceima, Morocco and expressed sympathy for protestors.

Bahrain is ranked 164 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, behind countries such as Russia, Libya and Turkey.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported in May that several Bahraini journalists who worked for foreign media organisations such as Associated Press and France 24 had been denied accreditation.

According to the CPJ, several Bahraini journalists have been detained in Jaw Prison. These include Ahmed Humaidan, who whilst covering an attack on a police station in December 2012, was arrested for participating in the attack. He is said to be serving a ten-year prison term.

The founder of Al-Wasat, Karim Fakhwari was detained in April 2011 for “deliberate news fabrication and falsification,” a week later he died in custody – the CPJ reports.

HRW’s deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement: “Shutting down Al Wasat is a prime example of Bahraini authorities’ complete intolerance of any kind of independent expression.”

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