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Bahrain: Why was Al Jazeera's Office Shut Down?

Al Jazeera's Logo

Bahrain announced that it has temporarily shut down the office of Al Jazeera Satellite Channel for “violating professional conventions.” Bloggers and tweeps react to the development in this post – especially after rumours surfaced that the Qatari station's bureau was closed because of a report it aired on poverty in Bahrain. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera says it doesn't even operate an office in Bahrain so what exactly is going on?

Tunisian journalist Habib Toumi, who works in Bahrain, breaks the story on his blog:

“The Ministry of Culture and Information has made the decision to freeze the activities of Al Jazeera Satellite Channel office in Bahrain after the channel violated professional conventions and did not comply with the laws and regulations of the press, printing and publication law,” the ministry said in a brief statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA). “The temporarily freeze will be lifted after the ministry and the channel agree on a memorandum of understanding that defines their relations in a way that preserves the rights of both parties
according to the principle of reciprocity in exercising media activities in both countries,” the statement said. Bahrain in May 2002 banned the Doha-based channel from reporting from Bahrain.
The information minister said that the ban was imposed because the television station was deliberately seeking to harm Bahrain and that it was biased towards Israel and against Bahrain. Arab countries that barred the pan-Arab Al Jazeera station include Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco and Palestine.

In a follow up post, Toumi reports on Al Jazeera's reaction to the news:

“We were surprised and puzzled by news that Bahrain’s culture and information ministry has decided to temporarily freeze the activities of our bureau in Bahrain,” the pan-Arab network said. “While we deeply
regret the decision that had not been officially conveyed to us, we stress that our editorial line and professional policy in covering news and issues whether their locations have not changed or been amended. We remain invariably committed to the motto we have kept since we were launched,” Al Jazeera said on its website.

The Ministry of Culture and Information's decision to shut the station's office down is all the more confusing, since Al Jazeera does not even have a bureau in Bahrain.

According to Ammar Mohammed, who works for Al Jazeera:

@SuadAK @JustAmira الجزيرة مالها مكتب في البحرين ، فقط كان المراسل يعمل من هناك ويرجع للبحرين بين الحين والآخر
Al Jazeera doesn't have an office in Bahrain. It only has a correspondent who travels to Bahrain every now and then

Moving on to Twitter, users were left scratching their heads for a ‘logical’ reason behind the move – the second against the outspoken channel in eight years.

Sultan Al Qassemi, from the UAE, tweets:

Bahrain shuts down Al Jazeera channel operation. It may be attributed to the shooting incident of Bahraini sailors by Qatari coastal guards

In response to my question on why the channel's non-existent office was shut, Bahraini SuadAK responds:

@JustAmira ماشفت البرنامج بس الظاهر قابلوا جامعيين بحرينيين رواتبهم أقل من ٢٠٠ دينار وصورا لهم جم بيت آيل للسقوط
I didn't watch the programme but it seems that they had interviewed university graduates whose monthly salaries are lower than BD200 ($530) and took footage of a few derelict homes

In a follow up tweet, Suad AK writes:

اذا تلفزيونا وصحافتنا نقلوا مصايب اي بلد ثاني للعالم حلال بس لحد ينشر غسيلنا تصير السالفة تدخل في شئون داخلية .. عقلية غريبة
If our television station and newspapers reported on the catastrophes of other countries, it would be fine. But if others hang out our dirty laundry, it becomes interfering in internal affairs..strange mentality

On his popular blog, Mahmood Al Yousif, of Mahmood's Den, reacts:

Is it fair to say then that Bahrain’s government strategy to deal with all its problems is to firmly bury its head in the sand? With the various and consistent curbs applied to the media in all its forms it certainly suggests this “strategic” direction.

And I am left wondering what next after SuadAK tweets that Al Jazeera is being requested to ask for “approval” every time they want to air anything about Bahrain:

@SuadAK And where will it stop? Will they ask the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post to ask for permission too?

Meanwhile, BahrainRights, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights’ account, tweets the links for the videos of the report which allegedly led to the suspension of the Al Jazeera operation in Bahrain. The centre, which has also been shut down by the Bahraini authorities, tweets:

AlJazeera TV report on poverty in bahrain that caused closing their office in #Bahrain PART1 http://ow.ly/1qxVwC

And the second part of the video is here:

PART 2 of AlJazeera TV report on poverty in bahrain that caused closing their office in #Bahrain part2 http://ow.ly/1qxVx0

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