Monday, February 13, 2012

Suppressing the narrative in Bahrain

As the anniversary of the uprising nears, the country's rulers are denying foreigners entry and hiring PR firms.

Matthew Cassel

"In January, Brian Dooley, of the US-based organisation Human Rights First, was preparing for his fourth trip back to Bahrain since the uprising began in February 2011. Dooley told Al Jazeera that he had never previously had any problems entering the country.
"About a week before I was going, I got a letter saying: 'Do not come,'" Dooley said.

Al Jazeera obtained a copy of the letter - sent by the Ministry of Human Rights - which asked Dooley to wait until after the end of February, by which time a national commission on implementing recommendations from the government-sponsored Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) would have finished its work.
"People are bracing for something serious and probably bad to happen in the middle of February," Dooley told Al Jazeera by phone from the US......

Armed with phones

On Saturday, two US human rights activists were arrested at a protest in Bahrain's capital, Manama, and deported the following morning. On Monday, the ministry of interior announced that nationals of countries that required Bahrain nationals to obtain visas ahead of time, would face a policy of reciprocity and no longer be eligible for visas on arrival, if they had been previously.

After many local journalists who had reported on or taken part in the February 14 uprising were arrested or forced into exile, Reporters Without Borders ranked Bahrain 173 out of 179 countries for press freedoms in 2011. However, supressing the narrative of crackdown on a mostly unarmed pro-democracy uprising has been difficult for the government, with social media-savvy activists armed with mobile phones and other recording devices. Videos and pictures documenting police repression are uploaded to sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook on an almost daily basis.

With the uprising's one-year anniversary on Tuesday - and protests already happening across the country - it is unlikely that efforts to distance the country's rulers from what has recently become a familiar image of a regime willing to hold on to power, at any cost, will be anything but an exercise in futility."

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