Media Freedom in a Newer Bahrain

This delegation   from nearly 20 countries was here for a week-long interaction with Bahrain’s many government divisions, as a part of ‘Discover Bahrain’ campaign by Bahrain Good Word Society.

At the headquarters of Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) in Juffair, where the delegation was received on Tuesday, by  BJA Chairman  Moanes Al Mardi,   I was among the members of BJA replying to the questions posed by the delegation.

In the last 34 years of my career  as a journalist in this country, I have seen the way this country has opened up to news media, and the way it is becoming more and more transparent.  In fact, I believe that the freedom which Bahrain’s Press enjoys today is very high, and not comparable to that of many other countries in the region. I expressed the same to the delegation.

A very good example, from just this week, is the trial of a high-profile personality. The newspapers in Bahrain carried the story of a top police officer belonging to the Al Khalifa family being on
trial for using torture, force and threats against two doctors detained during the unrest in March 2011.

Public Prosecution’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) chief Nawaf Hamza said that  the lady officer  was also facing a separate trial for physically assaulting a female opposition activist.

Now, these kinds of news reports, about people in high places with connection to the Royal Family, are clearly indicative of the great media freedom that this country enjoys. It is very rarely found in other countries of the region.

Mentioning this same news story, the Minister of State for Information Affairs, and the Official Government Spokesperson, Sameera Rajab had also said that “the government is committed to justice” irrespective of the stature of the individuals on trial.

I believe that the appointment itself, of Sameera Rajab who has had an illustrious career as a journalist, to the position of ‘Minister of State for Information Affairs’ and of ‘Government Spokesperson’ – a role which had not existed earlier – shows the seriousness of the government in promoting healthy media relations.

Our newspaper, and many other newspapers in the country, can reach for the phone, call and contact this remarkable Minster and Government’s Official Spokesperson at unearthly hours, for the official version of any story, and can be sure to get a response from her, or her office, in minutes.

This availability and accessibility, which cannot be seen among many others in ministerial positions, shows how the media is able to get the right picture, fast and accurate.

That is why my appreciation for the growth of the media freedom in this country has been very sincere and serious.

At the BJA  headquarters, seeing Moanes Al Mardi, the BJA Chairman answering questions, I went back in time, nostalgically, almost 30 years.

I remembered him as a  10-year old boy, with his father the late Mahmoud Al Mardi, who had first interviewed me when I came to Bahrain, during my youthful days stepping into the wonderful world of journalism.

Since then, the changes media experienced in Bahrain have been tremendous. And they have been for the better.