#Bahrain: First Hand Accounts of the Evolving Crisis

#Bahrain: First Hand Accounts of the Evolving Crisis
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This is a prime example of the ways in which economic and demographic change can lead to social and political changes in the dynamic and rapidly evolving societies of the Gulf. Chatham house, February Thus, the importance of this paper lies in the fact that it provides a deep examination of the political content of social media in Bahrain, with the aim of explaining the ongoing trends of political change in this country, and hopefully predicting future ones, thus providing a transparent picture of the political and media landscapes in this strategically significant country.

In this paper we will try to describe the media landscape in Bahrain before and after the political events of Feb , and we will examine how far this change in the media mirror or reflect the change in the political landscape. This paper will also discuss wither political discussions and debates is actually encouraged by social media in Bahrain, and how much of a synergy exists between social and traditional media in political discussions. The final part of this paper will examine the role played by social media in helping Bahraini women to shape and reflect their political leadership.

This is true in many Arab countries, including Bahrain, a small country with a large internet population. Bahrain has witnessed a great surge in social media activism which both inspired and paralleled political activism on the ground. However, it also witnessed governmental efforts to resist and halt this activism, both on the ground and online, which was evidenced in many cases of shutting down internet websites, blogs and Twitter accounts and arresting political opponents, who were also social media activists. Content about the ruling family, the government, and the opposition is strictly regulated, although there are ways to circumvent the filtering.

Given the demographic, economic, and political conditions in the broader Middle East region, uprisings and political movements are likely to continue to ferment. Howard6 , pp. Oxford: Oxford University Press. In this year Bahrain dropped 29 places in the Reporters without Borders rankings, to be in the rd position among countries. Thus, it was not a surprise to witness a large shift in the Bahraini media landscape in recent years, where new and social media is playing a bigger role than ever as channels to exchange information, news and ideas on the political future and democratic transition in the Gulf Island.

New and social media is providing individuals in Bahrain with the space to freely express their views, at a time where traditional media is more controlled than ever. Social media in the Arab world: Leading up to the uprisings of Local radio and television outlets are government owned and controlled. The Radio broadcasting in the country dates back to , while the Television broadcasting started in Bahrain TV was set up in , and the number of official TV channels eventually increased to six, all controlled and funded by the ministry of information.

Due to legal constraints, private TV and Radio stations were generally not allowed in Bahrain. The media in Bahrain is organized only by Law No. While this law recognizes the instruments, devices and programs used to transfer words, figures, photos or films, it lacks sufficient articles that clearly organize the radio and television media.

While newspapers are generally semi-privately owned in Bahrain, four out of the five main Arabic newspapers in the country are owned or affiliated directly or indirectly with members of the ruling family. The only exception is the daily newspaper Al-Wasat which is known to be the only critical voice in the Bahraini press.

Print journalism in Bahrain was relatively independent before the severe political crisis in The economic prosperity and political openness that accompanied the political reform initiative leading up to the Bahrain National Charter in gave license to starting new newspapers and press freedom enjoyed its golden era.

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Archived from the original on 5 April However, later on Aljazeera was not able to resume the work of its correspondent in Bahrain, due to restrictions from the Bahraini government, which ultimately resulted in the poor coverage of the Bahraini story. Retrieved 24 April The Nation. What Happened Parody. In this year Bahrain dropped 29 places in the Reporters without Borders rankings, to be in the rd position among countries.

Newspapers started to compete over investigative stories and attract competent journalists. Bahrain was swept up in the global financial crisis in , and the press also suffered economically. Government advertising became the only source of income for most newspapers after the decline of private advertising, and this shift was reflected in the coverage of these newspapers, which started to become less critical and more biased toward the government. This was the case for most newspapers in Bahrain, except for two independent publications: Al-Waqt, which was forced to shut down in , and Al-Wasat, which faced a difficult political situation after being accused by the Information Authority of fabricating news in its coverage of the uprising.

Bahraini uprising of - Wikipedia

What helped is the fact that Bahrain has one of the best levels of Internet coverage in the Middle East. Connection speeds are fairly good ranging from k to more than 20M, according to the region and the number of Internet Service Providers is very high for the size of the population 23 ISPs for 1. Batelco, owned and operated by a member in the ruling family, is the most important one. In addition, online censorship has always been a common practice by the Information Authority.

Online Public forums and websites have been blocked several times by the Information Authority if they posted any critical political discussions. In an interview with him for this paper, prominent online activist Ali Abdulemam said that the rise of using online media as a source of information in Bahrain started 15 years ago. He argued that the space of freedom which was available online attracted growing numbers of Bahrainis to A ual report , less Freedo , Broader i pu ity , Bahrai Press Associatio.

Social media was essential in organizing this movement and mobilizing people to join it. As political events escalated in Bahrain during February and March, Social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, became the main source of information for those who wanted to follow the news. The majority of those who were in the lead of this movement in Bahrain were Independent youth activists, many of them organized themselves later into different groups and coalitions, such as the February 14 Youth Coalition.

This uprising was crushed a month later by the Bahraini authorities, and Emergency Law was declared in the country for three months. Major human rights violations were committed during these months including imprisonment and torture leading to death in some cases, as well as dismissing thousands of employees for participating in protests.

Members of the media were targeted, imprisoned, tortured and dismissed from their jobs at the Information Authority or at pro- government newspapers. France 24 correspondent Nazeeha Saeed was also arrested and tortured in After three years in court, the trial against the police officer accused of torturing her was adjourned, which raised serious concerns about the spreading of the culture of impunity in Bahrain. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which included a reputable team of international human rights experts, released a page report in November detailing their investigation.

The report documented 46 deaths, allegations of torture, and more than 4, cases of employees dismissed for participating in protests. Most of the BICI recommendations have not yet been implemented to this day in Bahrain despite the fact that the government accepted the results of the report and pledged to implement its recommendations. In fact, the latest moves in Bahrain appear to be toward more restrictions on freedom of speech rather than less. According to the BICI report, Bahrain TV broadcasting during the period of the imposition of the Emergency Law was using insulting language and provocative and defamatory coverage of events.

State-controlled TV and Radio channels are still presenting political programs supporting the government and its policies. Furthermore, the Bahraini press declined dramatically in the years following the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, which was followed by an aggressive attack on journalists and the press. Bahrain Press Association was one of the bodies launched after the crackdown specifically to document and report the situation of journalists in Bahrain, as well as the issue of freedom of expression and media in the country.

In its latest report launched in May , BPA 12 For more information, read Bahrain Press association annual report , silence is a war crime. Many important issues received insignificant and unbalanced coverage in newspapers, including stories of violations of human rights, corruption, reports of the national audit court and illegal land acquisition by members in the rulling family. This reflects the lack of professional reporting and critical journalism, as well as the domination of government over the local press.

However, it was very difficult to contain the flow of information after the political crisis and the February 14 movement, since it took place in the digital age. The previous role of the press as a supporter of authority has weakened, and new dynamic and popular tools are available to individuals to use for free. New and digital media started to fill the information gap created by the biased traditional media in Bahrain. These new media channels were equipped with photos, videos and documented recordings.

Three years after the crackdown in , the numbers of citizen journalists and photo journalists are on the rise in the country. There were many cases of imprisonment, torture and targeting of these individuals, which sometimes lead to death, like the case of citizen videographer Ahmad Ismael who died after being shot while he was filming a protest in In fact the usage of Twitter has been thriving in Bahrain in recent years by both anti and pro-government individuals, not only among the youth demographics but also among political leaders and public figures.

This also was the case for the rest of the Gulf countries which have a relatively high income levels that allow widespread use of smart phones. According to the same report, the penetration of social media usage in Bahrain is among the highest in the Gulf area, with These percentages even exceed the penetration of social media usage in Saudi Arabia, a country which is well-known for the widespread usage of social media, with Amazon Drive Cloud storage from Amazon.

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DPReview Digital Photography. East Dane Designer Men's Fashion. Shopbop Designer Fashion Brands. Deals and Shenanigans. Ring Smart Home Security Systems. PillPack Pharmacy Simplified. Amazon Renewed Like-new products you can trust. Amazon Second Chance Pass it on, trade it in, give it a second life. Bahrain's Gulf Daily News newspaper reported that anti-government protesters attacked and killed an elderly taxi driver on 13 March. Additionally, a report by the Associated Press , quoting an unnamed security official in Saudi Arabia, stated that a Saudi soldier was shot dead by protesters in Bahrain on 15 March.

Coverage of the uprising within Bahrain has been controversial and confusing, with numerous incidents where media outlets reported conflicting reports of deaths and violence both by government forces and anti-government protesters. Both national and international journalists have had difficulty gaining access to protests and allegations of bias have caused scandals in two leading Arabic new sources, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. International correspondents from several major news outlets had difficulty gaining entry to Bahrain or, once there, having the freedom to pursue stories. In addition to refusing to grant visas, Bahraini authorities had detained several journalists.

On 31 March , four CNN journalists were detained on a charge of not having proper documents. The journalists stated they did possess the correct documents, however, they were not able to conduct the interviews they had scheduled because of their source's fear of being arrested. When the same journalists attempted to interview the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Rajab, at his home, six military vehicles arrived and 20 masked men surrounded the CNN team and Rajab and deleted all of the photos.

He said he was asked to leave without any explanation and a government official escorted him to the airport. CNN produced a documentary about the use of Internet technology and social media in the Arab Spring, including a minute segment on the Bahraini uprising that reported repressive conduct by the government; CNN aired the documentary only once in the United States and not at all on CNN International. Reuters correspondent Frederik Richter, was expelled on 10 May for what the Bahraini government said was biased reporting.

On at least two occasions the Bahraini government has commenced or announced legal action against news sources or reporters for articles targeting Bahrain and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Bahrain Freedom Movement posted on their website that, in the second week of February, many journalists were banned from entering the country to report on the deteriorating situation-especially as the regime increased its cracked down on the protesters.

In order to evaluate the situation of freedom of expression in the country, a delegation of international NGOs was supposed to make a visit from 5 to 10 May The delegation received permission from the Bahraini government on 11 April. The government, however, withdrew its permission on 30 April, claiming that new regulations had taken effect that prevented the presence of more than one international NGO in any one week. In June , the BBC admitted making "major errors" in its coverage of the unrest.

The report added that "the government appears to have made a good-faith effort to de-escalate the crisis" in particular during a period when the BBC's coverage of the unrest dropped substantially and that many people had complained that their coverage was "utterly one-sided".

Media associated with the Gulf Cooperation Council , keep labeling the Shia-majority population in opposition to the ruling Sunni regime as "terrorists", "anarchists" and "trouble makers. A documentary on which she had been working was never aired. Despite extensive, and sometimes even non-stop coverage of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt , Al Jazeera's coverage of Bahrain was much less comprehensive. Despite being banned in Egypt, Al Jazeera went to great lengths to provide non-stop live coverage of events.

It did not do that in Bahrain. In February , several key personnel in Al Jazeera's Beirut office resigned in protest, citing the channel's 'biased' coverage of the uprisings in Syria and Bahrain. Hashem stated that the channel refused to show photos which might favor the Syrian government's position and would not air material that showed violence in Bahrain.

I do believe that Al Jazeera and other channels were not balanced in dealing with the events," he said. This is unacceptable. In April , David Pollack at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy , noted that, "Al jazeera Arabic did not report on the hardening of the Bahraini opposition on March 8, when the Coalition for a Bahraini Republic called for an end to the monarchy, nor did it cover protests held there on March 9, 10, and 13, the critical days leading to Saudi Arabia's decision to send troops into Bahrain.

In , a WikiLeaks document mentioned Al Jazeera several times. One such document revealed that the Qatari government referred to Al Jazeera as "a bargaining tool to repair relationships with other countries, particularly those soured by Al Jazeera's broadcasts, including the United States.

#Bahrain: First Hand Accounts of the Evolving Crisis Lars Hume

Al Jazeera's leadership told Reuters in mid-April that it faced a "challenging terrain" in Bahrain and that "Editorial priorities are weighed on a number of factors at any given moment. Journalist Don Debar, who has Al Jazeera experience, confirmed that the station has been heavily guided by the Qatari government in its policies. Stating, "The head of the bureau in Beirut quit, many other people quit because of the biased coverage and outright hand of the government in dictating editorial policy over Libya, and now Syria". Critics did note that Al Jazeera coverage of the crisis in Bahrain did increase in May and June and conceded that the severe press restrictions in Bahrain made coverage extremely difficult.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera has been heralded as one of the few networks who gave comprehensive and unbiased coverage of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. The network is widely credited with helping protests maintain the momentum which resulted in the overthrow of the entrenched regimes of Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. Al Jazeera was able to subvert government bans on its coverage by soliciting images from people on the ground, even providing them with a special address where they could send mobile phone images. When social unrest began in Yemen and Al Jazeera turned their focus east, Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh , accused the network of running an "operations room to burn the Arab nation.

The Saudi-owned channel Al Arabiya has also been conservative in its coverage. When former Tunisian President Ben Ali sought refuge in Saudi Arabia after fleeing unrest in his own country, Al Arabiya referred to the revolution in Tunisia as "the change". The popular talk show "Studio Cairo" was cancelled in February after its host, Hafez al-Mirazi said on the air he would host a discussion on Gulf political reform on his next show. Al Arabiya's coverage has been less conservative in covering the Arab revolutions in Libya and Syria.

Both of which have poor relationships with Saudi Arabia. Media coverage from within Bahrain has been problematic. Some cases produced only gone unconfirmed or contradictory reports, such as the death of an elderly taxi driver on 13 March The Gulf Daily News reported that the driver had been beaten to death by anti-government protesters. Beginning in med-February , Bahrain's main television station, BTV, launched a series of talk shows whose sole purpose appears to have been the incitement of public opinion against opposition sympathizers. Protesters were described by talk-show hosts as 'terrorists', 'foreign agents' and 'thugs'.

Another instance was the supposed death of a Saudi Arabian soldier on 15 March , reported by the Associated Press. Bahraini newspapers have given substantial coverage to the protests, although many of them tend to self-censor and adopt the government point of view, avoiding criticism of the king and the Royal family. Al-Wasat, a newspaper founded by an opposition figure in , was an exception to this rule and a positive influence on other newspapers according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

After the suspension on 3 April the editor-in-chief, among other editors, was forced to resign and Karim Fakhrami, one of the founders of Al-Wasat, was arrested on the same day and died in custody on 12 April. The public announcement said that his death was due to kidney failure. However, the Committee to Protect Journalists said that there were bruises on his body and the final report of the Commission of Inquiry classified Fakhrami's death as due to torture.

Recent events against Bahraini media led Reporters without Borders to issue this statement:. The Kingdom of Bahrain rd plunged 29 places to become one of the world's 10 most repressive countries. Bahraini and foreign journalists were systematically hounded from February onwards. An entire arsenal of measures were taken to prevent information circulating about the evolving situation in the country. At the same time, the authorities made extensive use of the media to put out pro-government propaganda. The creation of an independent commission of enquiry did not end the abuses against journalists.

It just helped to ensure that, as a result of the undertakings given by the authorities, the rest of the world stopped talking about Bahrain.

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Over the phone, opposition activist Mohammed al-Maskati alleged that pro-government media falsely claimed that Shia clerical leaders were behind the mass demonstrations over the last month. YouTube footage shows unarmed protesters getting shot. The uploader of one of the videos commented that the individual who had been shot was refused medical treatment at the hospital.

Another video shows him receiving medical treatment in a local home. Media coverage surrounding the Formula One race, held 22 April , once again raised the issue of media coverage and press freedom in Bahrain. It was impossible for international news organizations to cover the race without also covering the many protests arranged by democratic advocates in an effort to expose their fight to the world. The increasingly western media coverage of the race had more criticism of the Bahraini regime in the previous periods of the uprising.

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Reuters had an article stating that the race would continue as planned, despite the protests and violence, but also highlighted the cancellation of the race in The Bahrain government denounced news coverage of the protests, saying they were isolated incidents. The government also barred some foreign journalists who had been sent to cover the race, possibly fearing they would report on the protests.

Reporters Without Borders reported that several foreign journalists working for British and Japanese news agencies respectively were briefly arrested and released during the race. Prior to the outbreak of the larger scale protests and the first domestic crackdown, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa made a series of announcements to appease protesters. The government was to give. I here announce the failure of the fomented plot. He called for "dialogue" and a direction that the King's son, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, work on a resolution to the conflict.

He said talks would also cover electoral and governmental reforms, as well as looking into claims of corruption and sectarianism. King Hamad took a series of steps aimed at initiating a period of reconciliation following the unrest in February and March He established the Bahrain national dialogue on 1 July as a forum for the discussion and promotion of reform.

The National Dialogue aims to establish "common principles for the relaunch of the political reform process," according to chairman Khalifa Al Dhahrani. In total the opposition parties had only 25 out of seats, Maryam al-Khawaja said. Cherif Bassiouni , on 29 June to investigate the events of February and March and their consequences. The report was released on 23 November and confirmed the Bahraini government's use of torture and other forms of physical and psychological abuse on detainees.

Abdul Jalil Khalil, an Al Wefaq National Islamic Society member of parliament, described the 17 February pre-dawn police raid on the Pearl Roundabout encampment as "real terrorism", stating that "whoever took the decision to attack the protest was aiming to kill. But even if it does, I am not sure it will be enough to get the youth off the street. It is personal now. Hafad quit first accusing the government and state media of attempting to foment divisions within Bahraini society. A parliamentary by-election was held on 24 September [] to replace the 18 members of the largest political party in parliament, Al Wefaq, who had resigned in protest at governmental actions.

The status of these licenses has not been substantially documented. The United Kingdom has close ties with the Bahraini regime; indeed, in late , the United Kingdom signed a defense cooperation agreement with the Bahraini government. In June , delegates from Bahrain, where allegations of torture in police custody and in prisons are widespread, were given permission to access the Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire accompanied by members of the UK prison watchdog HMIP.

In September , a report revealed a state-owned Belfast business has trained forces in Bahrain that use torture to secure death sentences. The company trains Bahrain's Interior Ministry Ombudsman, a watchdog which knowingly refused for more than two years to investigate complaints regarding the torture of Mohamed Ramadan —a father-of-three on death row who was tortured into making a false confession. Reprieve a human rights defender organisation published an investigative report about Britain involvement in Bahrain's regime autrocity in The uprising has had consequences for Bahrain from the international community as well as foreign investors, including Formula One, which canceled the Bahrain Grand Prix due to instability and the outcry over the actions of the Bahraini government.

They did not call for regime change or threaten sanctions. Iran has expressed strong support for demonstrators, the majority of whom follow Shia Islam, the Iranian state religion. The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Saudi government have defended the action as necessary to restore stability and security in the country. Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights [] have documented alleged atrocities in Bahrain and strongly condemned authorities' response to the uprising. The Bahraini government's decision to establish an independent inquiry to investigate the unrest won praise from many western governments, such as the United Kingdom [] and the United States, [] as well as human rights organisations such as Amnesty International.

Radsch and two other activists from Freedom House were denied entry to the country. Bahrain's government spent millions of pounds on public relations, particularly with PR companies in Britain and the US, with which the regime has close diplomatic, military and commercial links, in an effort to try to improve its bloodied image.

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The list of companies or individuals hired by or linked to the Bahrain government since the start of the uprising includes:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Bahraini protests Part of the Arab Spring Clockwise from top-left: Protesters raising their hands towards the Pearl Roundabout on 19 February ; Teargas usage by security forces and clashes with protesters on 13 March; Over , Bahrainis taking part in the " March of loyalty to martyrs ", on 22 February; clashes between security forces and protesters on 13 March; Bahraini armed forces blocking an entrance to a Bahraini village.

Leaders of Bahrain opposition parties 8. House of Khalifa 8. Bahraini uprising of Main article: Background of the Bahraini uprising of Further information: History of Bahrain — Main article: Economy of Bahrain. Main article: Timeline of the Bahraini uprising —present. Riot police and protesters clashing violently in Manama on 13 March. Riot police and army forces supported by armoured vehicles and a military helicopter storm Pearl Roundabout on 16 March.

Main article: Aftermath of the Bahraini uprising of Further information: Internet in Bahrain. Main article: Torture during the Bahraini uprising —present.

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Main article: Casualties of the Bahraini uprising of and its aftermath. Main article: International reactions to the Bahraini uprising —present. Further information: Human rights reports on Bahraini uprising —present. Human rights portal Politics portal Bahrain portal.

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Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 8 February Retrieved 31 March The Express Tribune. Retrieved 15 April London: Associated Press via The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 February Hindustan Times. Al Jazeera English. Al-Wasat Bahraini newspaper. Retrieved 14 January Agence France-Presse via France Archived from the original on 11 February United Press International via Manama Voice. Archived from the original on 28 September Retrieved 23 July Manama Voice. Retrieved 12 February Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. Project on Middle East Democracy.

Archived from the original on 23 August Retrieved 6 January United States Department of State. Retrieved 2 March Bahrain also has a national guard that consists of about 2, personnel. The National. Retrieved 28 July Retrieved 24 January Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. Bahrain News Agency.

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Retrieved 14 June BBC News. NBC News. Retrieved 5 August Retrieved 17 January Global Change, Peace and Security. Archived from the original on 23 September Retrieved Global Post Public Radio International. Retrieved 10 February The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 10 April Retrieved 14 April Archived from the original on 17 February Archived from the original on 5 April The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 April Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 23 May The Daily Star.

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