Bahrain: Journalists Denied Entry at the Airport

This post is part of our special coverage Bahrain Protests 2011.

Bahrain awoke to a violent crackdown by police on demonstrators camped out at the country's iconic Lulu (Pearl) roundabout on Wednesday.

That afternoon, I boarded a flight from Doha, Qatar, to Bahrain, in part to see for myself what was unfolding in the island nation I once called home. Hours later, I found myself on a flight back to Doha, without having been allowed out of the airport.

Here is how my story largely unfolded:

View from Bahrain International Airport. Image by Flickr user stephen_bostock (CC BY-NC 2.0).

View from Bahrain International Airport. Image by Flickr user stephen_bostock (CC BY-NC 2.0).

@omarc: Hmm, SMS tweets not workin… at Doha airport, en route to Bahrain. Guess we'll see if the gov really is stopping people from coming in

@omarc: Asked to take a seat on arrival at Bahrain immigration. No reasons given, just waiting to hear from them…

Not sure what made them so suspicious – my mixed ethnicity, visas in my passport from Oman to Iraq, or the sponsor on my old Qatar residency…

@omarc: At Bahraini immigration for 1hr, they ask who I work for… “You used to work for Al Jazeera, right?” Yes, is there a problem? “No problem”

@omarc: Hit the 2hr mark waiting @ Bahrain immigration to enter the country. Journalists from UK, France and Japan sitting here too.

@omarc: Ladies from Ch 4 & Radio France (respectively) as well as the Japanese gentleman have been allowed through into Bahrain. Still waiting…

While some journalists were being allowed in, others – including from BBC Arabic and US-funded Al Hurra – were reportedly denied access. Mohammed Jamjoom, a reporter for CNN was asked by the Ministry of Information to leave the country.

@JamjoomCNN: I was expelled from Bahrain … Am now back in Abu Dhabi … #bahrain

@JamjoomCNN: Was not given a reason for my expulsion from Bahrain … Was told I was the only CNN team member being asked to leave … #Bahrain

Jamjoom can be seen in this CNN report speaking about his experience in Bahrain.

Alex Delmar-Morgan, a Doha-based WSJ reporter, was also detained briefly near Lulu (Pearl) roundabout in Manama, while CBS journalist Toula Vlahou reported being targeted by authorities.

As for me:

@omarc: Three hours at Bahrain immigration – now they say the country is not open for visitors, Manama is not safe, and I should go home.

@omarc: Bahrain immigration officers ask me to accept their apology for denying me entry to the country, but say “it will be fine in 2 to 3 days”.

@omarc: Got my passport back after just shy of 5hrs, with a return boarding card marked for 5:30am… QA kindly rebooked me on 11:25pm flight

While sitting at Bahrain immigration, I didn't have access to the Internet, and instead, live-tweeted the event by SMS. Upon arriving back in Doha, I found a flurry of reaction to my tweets, which ranged from the concerned:

@realrogerbird: @omarc Hoping for your safety

To the supportive:

@nabeelalmahari: @omarc best of luck mate I hope u all can make it

@bhrabroad: @omarc we can give you all the info you need even if u r at the airport #Bahrain

The skeptical:

@Nninanina: @omarc that proveregime doesnt want any 2 C crimes done against unarmed protesters what differ #Bahrain from Qaddafi using army against ppl

@maljaya3: @omarc By the time you get there, they would have prepared the stage for you to see what they want you to see.

And the downright rude:

@HubiBahrain: @omarc get the hint…. you are NOT welcomed all of you are bunch of liers

Many thanks to those who tried to help, and good luck to the journalist on the ground, trying to cover Bahrain's story in such trying times.

You can read a narrative version of this story on Boing Boing, as well as the full set of tweets & reactions on Doha News.

This post is part of our special coverage Bahrain Protests 2011.

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