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Postal authorities suspend union activist for speaking to media

(BCHR/IFEX) - On 6 February 2008, another union activist was punished for expressing her views on labour rights to the media. The Bahraini Postal Directorate of the Ministry of Transport suspended postal unionist Mrs. Najeya Abdulghaffar for 10 days without pay, on the allegation that she disclosed "job secrets".

Abdulghaffar, vice-president of the "unauthorized" Postal Union (PU), approached the General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain (GFWTUB) and made an official complaint that her employer is "harassing her, marginalizing her duties and setting-up plots to dismiss her on the grounds that she disclosed governmental secrets".

The Postal Directorate considers Abdulghaffar's having spoken with the media as constituting disclosure, without permission, of official secret information.

This is not the first suspension for Abdulghaffar or other public sector unionists for speaking to the media. In January 2007, Abdulghaffar was suspended on similar charges. Mr. Jamal Ateeq, president of PU, was suspended in December 2007 for five days for communicating with the media (see IFEX alert of 10 December 2007); in 2005, he was suspended for three days for the same reason. Unionists Kathom Ebrahim Al-Mushkab and Juma Abdulla Abdul-latif were treated similarly by the Postal Directorate authorities in the past.

Speaking to media about violations of labour rights has been considered "defamatory" to the employer and state officials, as stated in the punishment statement issued by the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) to Ateeq.

The punishment against Abdulghaffar is based on an administrative order by the CSB banning the formation of governmental unions, in direct violation of Decree Code 33 of 2002, which renders the PU unauthorized and illegal.

The BCHR expresses its concern about the suspension of Abdulghaffar, which appears motivated by the aim of silencing her and intimidating other unionist and rights activists.

Penalizing Abdulghaffar and other unionists for expressing themselves violates Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and confirms that the authorities are systematically attacking all forms of expression in Bahrain.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to the Bahraini Authorities:

- calling for an end to Abdulghaffar's suspension
- urging that no further measures be taken against her in reprisal for expressing her views
- requesting legislative changes to guarantee the right of public employees to freely express their views

APPEALS TO:

His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-khalifa
King of Bahrain
Riffa, Bahrain

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa
Cabinet Prime Minister
Manama, Bahrain

Fax: +97 3 1 721 1363

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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