Since 2011, the clampdown on freedom of expression in Bahrain has intensified. The letter asks Clooney to use her position of leadership to urge the UK government to abide by its stated commitment to protect journalists and promote free media and to press its ally, Bahrain, to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
The right to freedom of expression and press freedom is severely restricted in Bahrain. Journalists, human rights defenders, and activists are targeted for doing their human rights and journalism work. Furthermore, the Bahraini authorities are once again amending anti-terror and cybercrime laws to further criminalise political dissent and civil society activism. The situation is only worsening, following the government’s recent declaration that it intends to crackdown further on critical social media accounts and posts.
In December 2018, Amal Clooney stated:
“states should repeal criminal sanctions in laws that target speech like sedition, blasphemy and defamation, and they should narrow the scope of other laws that can easily be used to silence critical speech”.
The letter, therefore asks Clooney to use her position and access to the UK authorities to urge them to:
- Prevail on their Bahraini counterparts to release prisoners of conscience, including journalists, photojournalists, and human rights defenders imprisoned solely for voicing their peaceful opinions, including specifically: Mahmoud Al-Jaziri; Ahmed Humaidan; Sayed Ahmed AlMosawi; Hassan Qambar; Najah Yusuf; Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Nabeel Rajab;
- Urge the Bahraini government to rescind the administrative ban on the activities of the independent newspaper, Al-Wasat;
- Urge the Bahraini government to allow visits of the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly to the country; and
- Call on the Bahraini government to lift the vague and overly broad cybercrime laws imposed to silence the right to freedom of expression and end legislation criminalising human rights, including criticism of the King.
WMG joined these 15 NGOs in a joint call for support of freedom of expression in Bahrain:
- Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
- Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
- Amnesty International
- ARTICLE 19
- Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR)
- English PEN
- European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)
- Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
- Index on Censorship
- International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
- PEN America
- PEN International
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
- Women’s March Global
Maya Hendler is the Programmes and Communications Associate at Women’s March Global.