Sign up for weekly updates

Upper house passes press law amendments to decriminalise press offences; RSF urges lower house to approve changes

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has welcomed amendments to the press and publications law that were approved on 28 May 2007 by the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council), the upper house of the Bahraini parliament. If the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, approves the amendments, press offences will no longer be punishable by imprisonment.

"Three years ago, the lower house rejected an earlier reform bill that included the decriminalization of press offences," the press freedom organisation said. "If this second attempt succeeds, it will be a major legislative step forward and an inspiration to all countries in the region. We hope the deputies will approve this new bill in the spirit of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa's comments in favour of press freedom in May 2006."

As well as scrapping prison sentences, the bill passed by the Consultative Council on 28 May stipulates that editors cannot be sued for articles they did not write. The current press law, which has been in force since 2002, provides for sentences ranging from six months to five years in prison for journalists convicted of press offences.

Bahrain was ranked 111th in the latest Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. Local media sources say more than 65 lawsuits have been brought against journalists since 2001. Although no journalists have been imprisoned since Hamad became king in 1999, they continue to censor themselves because the threat is still there.

Latest Tweet:

Tenuous relationship between govt and CSOs could be bridged with initiatives like AFIC's -…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.