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Information Affairs Authority responds to reporters Sans Frontiers report

the response rejected allegations that the government was behind smear campaigns against Nabeel Rajab ...

14/3/2012 BNA

The Information Affairs Authority has sent an official response to
Reporters Sans Fronteirs (RSF), after the organization released its Enemies of the Internet report, which IAA believes has failed to present the reality of the situation in Bahrain.

The response, sent by an IAA official, accused the report of failing to mention that in Bahrain the government has taken the "unprecedented step of calling in independent human rights experts, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, chaired by internationally-respected lawyer Professor Cherif Bassiouni, to investigate all claims of abuse and excessive force by the police and security forces".

The official response elaborated on the BICI's blunt assessment of the events on 2011 and its series of recommendations to improve the government s conduct, which were accepted by His Majesty King Hamad and the
government. Many of the reforms have already been implemented, including better police training; prosecution of the officers accused of excessive force or mistreatment; and the reinstatement of all public sector workers who were dismissed for taking part in the unrest.

The response debates the arguments mentioned in RSF's report, as Bahrain has taken several positive steps towards reforming the media sector since the publication of the BICI report in November 2011, citing Recommendation 1724(a), which advocated the relaxation of censorship and increasing the
range of political opinions in the media. The IAA is in the process of implementing this recommendation through a public and transparent process advocated by independent French media experts from the globally-recognised consultancy IMCA.

The government is also implementing Recommendations 1724(b) and 1724(c), which call for the establishment of an ethical code for journalists and to undertake appropriate measures to prevent hate speech and incitement to violence.

Furthermore, the response rejected allegations that the government was behind smear campaigns against Nabeel Rajab, which were unfounded and inaccurate."The government does not engage in aggressive or inciting
activity online and condemns the targeting of any individual, Bahraini or otherwise, on social media sites and the Internet."

Moreover, allegations that torture is ongoing are also misleading. The government has worked hard to raise its policing and detention procedures to international standards with the help of external police experts and non-government organisations including the International Committee of the Red Cross; any incidents of mistreatment that occurred during the events of 2011 are being fully investigated and those responsible are being brought to justice.

The government of Bahrain remains committed to meeting international media regulation standards and is working hard to improve its domestic media environment. Nevertheless, reform is a process and not an event; we hope that Reporters Without Borders follows this process closely and engages with us to ensure that future reports reflect an accurate picture of the media environment in Bahrain.

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