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Authorities prohibit publishing houses from exhibiting books

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses its great concern regarding the Bahraini authorities' banning of 25 Shiite Lebanese publishing houses from exhibiting their books in the annual book fair, planned to be held in the Bahraini capital of Manama on 17 March 2010.

In a news piece published in "Al Wassat" daily newspaper, it discussed the Bahraini authorities delivering a black list to the shipping company concerned with shipping the books of the 25 Lebanese publishing houses. Following this, the company refrained from shipping the books of those publishing houses which were supposed to participate in the fair. The same source confirmed that the list which was delivered to the shipping company was not delivered to the same publishing houses, and that the publishing houses only learned of the ban from the shipping company.

One day after the newspaper published the story about the ban, the Bahraini Ministry of Information hastened to deny the news or its responsibility for it. Although this is not the first time that the Bahraini authorities have banned the entry of some books into Bahrain, the previous bans targeted books and publications that were not of such large significance. This is the first time that it has targeted entire publishing houses. What distinguished this black list of the banned publishing houses is that they publish Shiite religious books. While the Ministry denied any involvement in the ban, the owners of several of the Lebanese publishing houses confirmed to "Al Wassat" that the shipping company officials refused to ship the books according to a decision issued by the Bahraini authorities.

The BCHR believes that the ban was perhaps issued by the National Security Apparatus which greatly intervenes in its work with the Ministry of Culture and Information, by dominating the Department of Foreign Media at the Ministry of Culture and Information. The Apparatus is also responsible for blocking electronic websites and confiscating and banning books that are not consistent with the policy of the government, and withdrawing licenses of reporters and international news agencies which cannot be adjusted to serve the authority's agenda.

The Bahraini government has increasingly targeted the Shiite sect on all levels, among them the cultural level by banning their political, religious and cultural websites on the Internet, and banning the religious and historical books that belong to them, and restricting their religious freedom.

The president of the BCHR said in this regard, "Insisting on monitoring the written press and banning books and independent publishing houses and blocking the political and human rights electronic websites that oppose the government's policies has become one of the features of the repressive and authoritarian government." He added, "The policy of the Bahraini authorities in banning books and closing down websites has proved to be an utter failure; this policy even contributed in bringing them fame and attracted interested people, and the only thing it earned from the process of blocking and banning is harming the human rights reputation of Bahrain both locally and internationally. These suppressive approaches contradict the commitments of Bahrain as a member of the Human Rights Council, and a party to the International Covenant (. . .)"

The BCHR demands that the Bahraini authorities stop targeting people's opinions and beliefs, stop banning books and publishing houses immediately, and that they instead stop supporting the websites and newspapers that are Takfiri (accusing others of blasphemy), and that instill religious and sectarian hatred between people.

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