Freedom House is deeply disturbed by reports that photographer Ahmed al-Fardan, the 2013 winner of Freedom House's “Images of Repression and Freedom” photo contest, was detained and beaten by police in Bahrain on August 8, in an attempt to prevent him from covering recent protests.
Freedom House calls on the Bahraini government to respect the rights to freedom of assembly and to a free press, and to reverse recently adopted regulations banning public assembly and limiting free speech.
Al-Fardan, a professional news photographer, said two plainclothes police officers approached him near his home and asked to speak with him. He was then taken to a car, punched and choked, and told that he would be arrested if he did not provide information about protesters and journalists. Police further intimidated Al-Fardan with threats to him and his family before releasing him.
Al-Fardan's winning photo “Political Participation and Toxic Gas,” showed a masked protester standing in a cloud of tear gas during protests in 2012 and is emblematic of the Bahraini government's brutal crackdown.
Bahraini protesters took to the streets this week on August 14, the anniversary of Bahrain's independence from the British Empire. Citizens have been engaged in a two-and-a-half year face-off against the ruling royal family calling for greater freedoms.
The Bahraini government has ramped up its repression of journalists and photographers in anticipation of the anniversary of Bahrain's independence, and according to human rights groups, five journalists have been arrested since the end of July.