Four American journalists were expelled by Bahrain earlier this month. They had entered Bahrain days before the 5th anniversary of the troubles which had erupted in the Kingdom on 14 February 2011 and which a militant section of the opposition has this ritual of observing as the Day of Rage.
Too weak-hearted to visit Syria or Iraq where real stories are afloat all the time for the daring to pick and file, they had turned Bahrain-ward. They were hoping to go clubbing and mild winter-weather sight-seeing with some surreptitiously-made videos of opposition-inspired ‘action.’ The action they were looking for was Molotov-throwing on police, blocking of Bahrain’s roads, burning tyres and burned-out garbage skips, to upload on YouTube.
To show what fearless journalists they were, on entering Bahrain they apparently lied about who they were, gave false information, posed as tourists, and tried to cover some hardly newsworthy ‘troubles’ here and there in the vicinity of remote villages. Some of them were even caught, their faces covered, taking part in illegal rallies and indulging in minor acts of rioting themselves in the company of organised gangs!
The newsmen had chosen to become news themselves.
That they were not detained for long nor harassed but after a token appearance before the Public Prosecutor were merely escorted to the airport and made to leave, speaks a lot about the way the government of Bahrain handles such troublemakers pretending to be newsmen.
One can imagine how they would have faced the full force of the authorities’ wrath in a country like Iran or China or even one of Bahrain’s neighbouring countries. Remember how Iran has dealt with American journalists in a similar situation; they were detained and kept incommunicado behind bars for months. Ms Anna Therese Day and her three male colleagues were lucky. Their parents even thanked the government of Bahrain.
The question here is not that they came on false pretences and managed to get away. The question is, why did they come to Bahrain? Did they come in the hope of capturing some gory footage of police firing at innocent demonstrators? Did they come to see scenes of arson and mayhem? This only shows how little research they had done before arriving on their mission.
Yes, if there are illegal and violent rallies, riot police do confront participants in Bahrain. But so do police in the US, Britain, France, India or anywhere else? Democracy means people have a right to express dissent. But it does not mean they have a right to express it through arson, Molotovs, iron rods and tyre-burnings putting the lives, property and rhythm of a city and its law-abiding citizens at risk.
And why should they have arrived in expectation of any conflagration on February 14? Business was as usual in the week during which the day fell, and no major incidents were reported in the days leading up to the day. All major international news channels’ reps ignored the day. Alas, they were prompted to arrive in the guise of tourists because a section of the media tired of covering the daily rounds of violence in Iraq, Syria and Egypt expected some dramatic developments in Bahrain spurred by the so-called human rights organizations who were eager to fulfil these expectations by making it appear something big was about to happen.
They may also have been prompted to head to Bahrain because some Iran-funded opposition groups consisting of convicted terrorists and their agents had organised conferences in some western countries which, not surprisingly, were thinly attended and barely reported.
This is where it galls. Even in this age of Internet, YouTube, Twitter and whatnot, first-world journalists still like to be fooled they may get some big scoop where none exists.