Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges Prince Charles to raise press freedom during Gulf states visit
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales
8 November 2016
I am writing on behalf of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regarding your visit to Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. We have serious concerns about the press freedom situation in each of these three countries, and ask that you take the opportunity to raise these worrying issues during your visit.
Of the three countries, Bahrain has the worst press freedom record, with a ranking of 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. The King of Bahrain, Hamed bin Isa Al Khalifa, has been a ‘predator of press freedom’ since 1999, and was included again on RSF’s list of predators published to mark International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November.
At least 12 journalists and citizen journalists are currently jailed in Bahrain. Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab remains detained, facing up to 15 years’ imprisonment for comments he made on Twitter. Blogger Abduljalil al-Singace, jailed since 2010, is serving a life sentence for allegedly planning to topple the regime. Nazeeha Saeed, a correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya and France24, has been charged with unlawfully working for international media, and faces serious jail time if convicted.
In Oman, security services have been systematically targeting journalists, human rights defenders, and online activists. Three Azamn newspaper journalists, Ibrahim Al-Maamari, Youssef Al-Haj, and Zaher Al-Abri, were sentenced to serious jail time in September by the first-instance court. They were conditionally released pending their appellate hearing, which is expected on 17 November. Two of the last vestiges of Omani independent media have recently closed: Azamn newspaper in August, followed by Al Balad newspaper at the end of October. Oman is currently ranked 125th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.
In the UAE, many citizen journalists and activists remain jailed following the ‘UAE 94’ trial in 2013, during which a total of 94 defendants were sentenced on politically motivated charges of establishing an organisation that aimed to overthrow the government. Among them are bloggers Osama Najjar and Waleed Al-Shehhi. The UAE is ranked 119th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.
We urge you to take the opportunity to raise these cases and the overall restrictive press freedom climates in these three countries at the highest possible level during your visit. Thank you for your attention to these serious concerns.