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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Bahrain sends protest notice to Qatar over ‘bad-intentioned’ Al Jazeera episode


Al Jazeera has denied rumoured changed in its editorial approach following the GCC reconciliation.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a “note of protest” to the Qatari foreign ministry over an episode aired by Al Jazeera, Manama announced on Wednesday.

The episode, aired on March 7 as part of the “Out of Context” programme, focused on a book by Nader Matrouk that delved into the torture of opposition prisoners in Bahrain’s Jau Central Prison in 2015.

The author of “Zafarat” said the book documented an uprising inside the prison through testimonies of detainees who complained of mistreatment and unsanitary living conditions.

Manama’s authorities responded to the protest using excessive force. Security forces reportedly fired tear gas in small rooms and assaulted prisoners even after the demonstration had ended, with some claiming physical and mental torture and others disappearing entirely.

Responding to the episode, Bahrain’s foreign ministry expressed its “strong condemnation”, and claimed it “contained false information and allegations put forward by hired instigators”.

Read also: Bahrain sends envoy to deliver official invitation after ‘media invite’ ignored

“Qatar, Gulf and Arab countries all know that these instigators receive their orders from foreign parties with bad intentions towards the Kingdom and GCC countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs considered this film to be inconsistent with the principles of Al-Ula declaration,” added the statement.

The statement also tapped into the reported mistreatment of Manama’s fishermen by Doha’s coast guards, who were arrested following several breaches into Qatar’s waters before and after the two countries signed the Al-Ula Declaration.

“The Ministry looked forward to more positive stances and constructive policies from Qatar that would help start bilateral talks to address the pending issues in order to further improve relations between the two countries, to preserve the cohesion of the GCC Council and achieve its goals,” the statement read, addressing the latest diplomatic meetings held between the two countries in Doha.

2015 imprisonment of protesters

The kingdom has come under global spotlight since the 2011 uprisings erupted during the region-wide Arab Spring. A decade later, rights groups say Bahrain is still continuing its human rights violations on freedom of expression.

A recent Human Rights Watch [HRW] report revealed that Bahraini police assaulted children as young as 11 who were arrested and “threatened them with rape and electric shocks”.

“Prosecutors and judges enabled the abuses. Police and prosecutors refused to allow parents or lawyers of the children, ages 11 to 17, to be present during their interrogations, and judges unnecessarily ordered their detention. One of the children spent his 12th birthday in jail,” read the report.

Unchanged editorial approach

Despite the GCC reconciliation, Al Jazeera has continued to report on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, dismissing rumoured changes in its editorial policy.

When the quartet imposed the illegal air, land and sea blockade on Qatar in 2017, it issued list of 13 demands that included the shuttering of Al Jazeera.

Doha rejected the list and several Qatari officials have since said the media network was not on the table in discussions held to reach the Al Ula Declaration.

Manama-Doha tensions

Meanwhile, tensions between Manama and Doha continued to simmer in the lead up to and post reconciliation, with several Bahraini attempts to provoke Qatar.

Such provocations include repeated breaches of territorial waters and airspace, as well as seizing 130 properties reportedly belonging to relatives of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

In February, a Bahraini official made the first diplomatic visit to Qatar since the blockade to deliver an official invitation for talks to resolve pending issues between the two Gulf states.

The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Regional and GCC Affairs Ambassador Waheed Mubarak Sayyar delivered a message from Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani to Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

While the visit signalled a step towards officially restoring ties, the latest Bahraini “notice of protest” shows tensions remain.

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