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Journalist and editor fined in defamation case

(BCHR/IFEX) - On 28 October 2007, the Supreme Criminal Court of Appeals convicted journalist Hesham Al-Zayani and the editor-in-chief of "Akhbar Al-Khaleej" newspaper of smear and defamation against the President of Arabian University, Dr. Rafia Ghabbash. They were fined a liability of BD 1000 (approx. US$2,650) in addition to court fees. The initial conviction was made on the basis of article no. 15 of the 1976 Penal Code and no. 47 of the 2002 Press Code.

On the same day, the High Criminal Court postponed the case against journalist and writer Jaffar Al-jamry of "Al-wasat" newspaper until December 2007. Mr Al-jamry was accused of smear and contempt by a female official of the Ministry of Health.

As per a statement by the president of the Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) in a TV broadcast on 22 October, the number of cases brought against journalists has reached 25. Statistics from BJA show that in 2006, the total number of cases brought against journalists was 27, of which only 7 (26%) were adopted by the Public Prosecution (PP). In 2007, and as per the same source, the total number of cases against journalists is 32 of which 12 (38%) have been moved by the PP, which shows the dramatic deterioration of freedom of expression in general and journalism in particular. BJA, acting as mediator, was successful in amicably convincing many individuals, mostly government officials, to drop their cases. This role played by the BJA, however, has not reduced the number of cases brought against journalists.

The charges in the cases formed against journalists were based on both Press Decree Code no. 47 of 2002 and Penal Decree Code no. 15 of 1976, which have been condemned and criticized, locally and internationally.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to the Bahraini Authorities:
- urging them to stop the deterioration of freedom of expression and journalism by amending Press Decree Code no. 47 to ensure conformity with international human rights standards
- asking that they abolish the Penal Code and cease using it to prosecute journalists and writers, or amend it to ensure conformity with international charters and covenants

APPEALS TO:

His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa
King of Bahrain
Riffa, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1721 1363

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa
Cabinet Prime Minister
Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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