The King of Bahrain has issued a public declaration of support for journalists’ freedom of speech despite a recent pledge to clamp down on coverage that does not “reflect the principles and traditions of Arabian Gulf society”.
In a statement on World Press Freedom Day, King Hamad backed journalists’ right to express independent opinions, and praised their role in fostering patriotism and social reform in the country.
He also thanked the Information Ministry and media institutions for keeping abreast of modern technologies and cooperating with international media, reported Gulf Daily News.
And he insisted that press freedom is guaranteed by Bahrain’s constitution, and plays an important role in improving the nation’s security, stability and development.
However, Bahrain’s attitude to media freedom has been tested lately. In March, the king’s information affairs advisor Nabeel bin Yacoub Al Hamer called for a new strategy to ensure that coverage of the region “reflects the principles and traditions of Arabian Gulf society.”
Too much press coverage in recent years has been “defamatory” – orchestrated in an attempt to “subvert [Bahrain’s] stability, derail its achievements and spark chaos in the region as whole”, he claimed.
His comments came in the wake of controversy surrounding Saudi Prince Alwaleed’s Alarab TV station, which was suspended a day after its first broadcast when it aired footage of a member of the Bahraini opposition.
According to the state news agency, the Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) responded to King Hamad’s latest comments in support of freedom of speech by praising his media reform project, launched ten years to promote the media sector in Bahrain.