Bahrain Paper Turns Out to Be Purveyor of Falsehoods

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Much mud has been thrown on the authorities in Bahrain by the international media as well as the so-called human rights organisations in relation to the treatment of the daily newspaper Al Wasat, especially of its senior staff.

The reason for the international “outrage” has been the sacking of the paper’s editor-in-chief Mansoor Al Jamri, removal of some of its other senior staff, deportation of the foreigners among them, and closure of the paper for a day. From all the international media reports, blogs and human rights organisations’ websites, it is evident that the condemnation of these actions is one-sided, misinformed and biased.

The majority of them have latched on to the statements made by the accused. No one has actually gone and spoken to the government bodies concerned to find out why such drastic actions were taken. Nor have most of them bothered to dig into why such actions were inflicted in the first place.

The fact of the matter is that Al Wasat had run, beginning 25 March, no less than six inflammatory reports alleging government atrocities. The fact also is that none of these were even remotely concerned with reality. They were indeed crudely concocted without realizing that in the Google age nothing remains hidden from probing eyes.

Thus, one report showed a Bahraini lying in a hospital bed and declaiming the terror created by the brutality of government forces whereas in reality it was a months-old report from a Moroccan website showing a Moroccan lying in a hospital bed in Morocco. Only the names, picture caption and locale in the report were suitably altered to ‘Bahrainise’ it whereas all the quotes and details were lifted verbatim from the Moroccan report.

The idea obviously was to create tension and discord in the country. Another report showed a “child victim” of brutality which was in reality another report from a Palestinian source. In some reports the people whose names appeared under photographs did not even exist in Bahrain.

More to the point, when Jamri was questioned on these lies, he admitted to publishing false reports.

Even more to the point is the fact that under Bahrain law journalists cannot be jailed, they can only be fined. Thus, Jamri and his colleagues were merely summoned for questioning. They were neither arrested for the purpose nor mistreated. The paper was shut down for a day to make sure they were not able to publish any such further falsehoods. Jamri is still at large despite having confessed to all the lapses for which another country could have come down on him heavily.

But the international media, their highly-paid and respected correspondents who have a duty to remain unbiased in their reporting, and the human rights observers do not want to know these facts. And even if they know them, they do not want to publish them because that would obviously weaken their case while railing against the Bahrain government. The person they have projected as a victim is actually the perpetrator of the worst crime a journalist can commit – falsification of news. The real victim is the government of Bahrain.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.