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ANHRI affirms need for monitoring of election coverage as authorities continue imposing restrictions

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 13 October 2010 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights (ANHRI) denounced the Bahraini authorities' continuing restrictions on civil society and human rights organizations operating in Bahrain prior to public elections running this month as all candidates have started their campaigning. The government has not only arrested human rights defenders, dissolved the Bahraini Association for Human Rights, the only independent human rights organization authorized to monitor elections, and refused international monitoring, but it is also applying pressure to impede the Arabic Group to Monitor Media from monitoring media performance in covering the elections.

The Bahraini government pressured hosting organizations not to receive the Arabic Group trainees, thus hindering the whole media monitoring project. At the same time, the independent press and media launched a campaign against the Arabic Group to mar its image in Bahrain, alleging that the group is a secret cell working for foreign institutes, joining the stream of aggression against civil society and human rights activists.

On the other hand, ANHRI denounced a statement issued by the Bahraini Journalists Association resenting the work of the Arabic Group, alleging that monitoring the performance of the Bahraini press during elections is a direct accusation of prejudice and bias. The statement said that monitoring of the media in Bahrain is a local issue. ANHRI considers this rhetoric quite misleading as the monitoring of elections is an indispensable necessity, especially since the Bahraini government controls all media and has the widest space for propaganda. The Bahraini Journalists Association, however, kept silent regarding this fact.

ANHRI said, "The Bahraini Journalists Association has every right to defend media in Bahrain and civil society has a role to play in monitoring elections and media performance. Claiming that monitoring is a direct accusation of the Bahraini press is unacceptable. We cannot deal with media and official authorities as though they are perfect. It is necessary to monitor the performance of all bodies and then assess their stances."

ANHRI added, "There is no excuse for the oppression of activists and human rights organizations unless the Bahraini government intends to violate human rights, run flawed elections and freeze all positive steps towards democracy and the provision of public freedoms, which are totally absent in Bahrain these days."

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