British embassy in Bahrain gets World Press Freedom Day wrong
Padraig Reidy: British embassy in Bahrain gets World Press Freedom Day wrong
03 May 13

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office marked today’s World Press Freedom Day with the launch of their “Shine a light” campaign. According to the FCO, “‘Shine a light’ aims to highlight repression of the media across the world through personal testimonies. Journalists and activists from around the world will be tell their stories of harassment and other restrictions on press freedom as guest bloggers.”

The FCO’s World Press Freedom Day blog contains some impressive posts on press freedom in Zimbabwe, Vietnam and other countries.

Unfortunately, the British Embassy in Bahrain seems to have gone somewhat off message. They tweeted earlier:

The link leads to two articles: one by Anwar Abdulrahman, of the pro-Bahraini regime Akhbar Al Khaleej and its sister paper Gulf Daily News, and one bylined “Citizens for Bahrain“, apparently a pro-government astroturfing exercise.

The pieces themselves are quite something: Abdulrahman is worth quoting at length:

From my desk as Editor-in-Chief, I believe that freedom should be based on humanness, righteousness and debate, not anarchy and terror. For in this era of open skies and the Internet, to misuse freedom is easy. Any story can be fabricated, any person or government defamed at the touch of a computer screen.

Another thought…as much as beasts cannot be left to roam freely, so in human society the feral element’s freedom should be under control.

That’s the Bahraini opposition, many of whom have been locked up for exercising their right to free expression, he’s referring to as the “feral element”.

Citizens for Bahrain, meanwhile, inform us:

It is time to practice this freedom in a suitable manner and not to abuse it. Freedom of the press is certainly a right, but it must be used with care and wisdom. When used such a manner it can be influential in developing and enlightening society, making this society more resilient both in times of trouble and times of peace.

In conclusion, we say this: Express your views openly and honestly; but put your country before your personal interests.

That is to say, “shut up”.

Why the embassy chooses to mark World Press Freedom Day by publishing two articles in support of censorship, and a regime that imprisons protesters, including Index award winner Nabeel Rajab, is a mystery.

Update: The embassy has moved to distance itself from the views expressed in the blog posts.

Padraig Reidy is senior writer for Index on Censorship. @mePadraigReidy

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.