Whether in Monarchies or democracies, those in power, feel uncomfortable with Freedom of Expression which is the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas. It includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. It is also the fact of the new world that most of the governments try to restrict freedom of speech to some degree. And the excuses to do this are coined in terms of hate speech, slander, libel, classified information, copyright violation, right to privacy and many more.
These limitations are justified under the term “offensive principle” or “harm principle” and the range is expandable in proportion to the flexibility of power room. There are ‘religious offenses’ also and ‘indictment to ethnic and racial hatred’ if you are becoming unmanageable.
The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the it is recognized in the “International Human Rights Law” in the International Covenant on Civil Rights ((ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.
Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “for respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “for the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”.
Most of the dictatorships have been packed off from the face of earth but in the Middle East and in some African, South American, Asian Countries there remain some prominent autocracies that are still keeping their iron grips over their helpless subjects. Tiny State of Bahrain is one of them.
There is only place upon earth where you could freely express your views – “speaker’s corner” in the London’s Hyde Park. Here also, you are not allowed to abuse the Queen. The British Bobby with his baton would appear from somewhere and in the first instance would remind you to show restrain.Next time you could be a royal guest.
The surge of freedom and fresh air inspired by the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt the Bahrain’s Shia majority rose in protest butt was brutally crushed in 2011 by supporters and troops from Saudi Arabia. Since the inception of the Bahrain Khilafate State, its citizens are denied their due share in politics, economy, government jobs and defense.
Every protest has been ruthlessly crushed till date. The famed latest victim of these oppression and suppression is a young photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan, 25, who was convicted of taking part in an attack on a police station in Sitra in April 2012. He has been in detention since December 2012. Human rights groups say he was simply covering pro-democracy protests that erupted among Bahrain’s Shia majority.
This photojournalist is a winner of ‘National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award’ for 2014 and 163 other awards internationally for his contributions to his field. He has always maintained his innocence.
Recently, a prominent human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja was detained while trying to enter Bahrain, reportedly to visit her father, the activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is in jail. Maryam al-Khawaja is the co-director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. She was denied entry and told that she had been stripped of her Bahraini citizenship. Her father, Mr Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, 54, is serving a life sentence for plotting to overthrow the monarchy. He had staged a 110-day hunger strike in 2012 in protest against his imprisonment. He is currently on hunger strike again. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch describe him as a “prisoner of conscience”.
On 26 March 2014, the High Court issued a 10-year prison sentence against photographer Ahmed Humaidan in a trial that lacked due process. Twenty-six other defendants were also sentenced to 10 years in jail, while another three received three-year terms. Three more were acquitted.
He had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the torture by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). He had been subjected to various methods of torture, including being forced to stand in a cold room for hours whilst handcuffed and blindfolded. He was reportedly forced to carry an object that his interrogators told him was a live bomb and was made to hold the object for several hours under duress and strict surveillance. Interrogators reportedly threatened to bring charges against his siblings on fabricated crimes if he refused to confess.
Fadhel Al-Sawad, Humaidan’s lawyer, stated that no incriminating evidence was presented in court against Humaidan, except for the confessions that were reportedly extracted under torture and reports from anonymous sources from within the CID.
During the three-month state of emergency in 2011, several photographers and members of the had been summarily dismissed from their jobs and arrested during house raids; their families were reportedly intimidated, and some of their personal photography equipment was reportedly confiscated or stolen. The government has failed to independently investigate these incidents, and has failed to hold the perpetrators of these acts accountable.
Both the Paris-based RWB and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) believe Humeidan to be innocent and that the charge and prison sentence is a form of intimidation and repression against journalists. A letter is being sent to the king Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa that stated the sentence as “directly in conflict with Bahrain’s international commitments to the international covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR)”. It says:
“We call on your government to immediately and unconditionally release and dismiss all charges against Ahmed Humaidan and to fulfil Bahrain’s commitments to uphold international standards of press freedom.” It concludes by calling on the Bahraini government “to recommit to upholding press freedom and freedom of expression in Bahrain, and to take immediate steps to end all intimidation, arrest, abuse, prosecution and detention of journalists and media professionals on charges relating to their work.”
By: Naim Naqvi
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