Bahraini authorities have prevented international and local organizations from monitoring the media coverage of the upcoming parliamentary elections.The Bahraini Center for Human Rights has expressed extreme concern about the government’s tight control over the media and its efforts to keep the elections in the dark by refusing international monitoring of the vote.
Manama has also dissolved the Bahraini Association for human rights, the only independent Bahraini human rights organization authorized to monitor elections, in recent days. It has also restricted the activities of the Arabic Group to Monitor Media in covering the elections, saying ‘monitoring media in Bahrain is a domestic issue.’
Bahraini authorities have reportedly given complete liberty to monitor the elections to only pro-government organizations.
BCHR says the forthcoming elections will experience the same media coverage as the 2006 parliamentary elections.
In 2006, Manama cited neutrality as the reason for banning candidates and political parties from broadcasting their election campaigns and ads on the radio and television. Instead, during this period, these channels were used systematically to broadcast condensed ads to promote the ruling family, with news and programs.
This resulted in voters being directly or indirectly influenced in favor of pro-ruling family candidates, BCHR reported, adding that these channels were also used to broadcast programs which clearly targeted certain political groups without providing them with an opportunity to respond. This may be seen as a systematic act of directing political opinions, as well as not allowing space for discussions or diverse opinions.
According to the rights group, during the run-up to the 2006 elections, 71% of the media programs were focused on the electoral mobilization and government news.
Since mid-August, Bahrain has arrested more than 250 Shia activists, accusing them of having “links to terrorists” and conspiring to overthrow the Bahraini government.
According to human rights groups, the Shia detainees were mistreated and tortured during interrogations and were forced to make false confessions or accusations against other human rights defenders.
The fabrications were later broadcasted on the state media as “confessions” made by “terrorists.”
The human rights groups have also criticized Bahraini authorities for their crackdown on the freedom of expression notably through blocking internet websites and opening judicial proceedings against those journalists who speak out against human rights violations in the country.
Many opposition parties have decided to boycott the elections due to be held on 23 October.