Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The constitution allows for the right to press freedom, excluding opinions that undermine the fundamental beliefs of Islam or the "unity of the people" and those that promote "discord or sectarianism." In practice, the government significantly restricts this right. While criticism in the press of government policies and the expression of opinions on domestic and foreign issues has increased in recent years, the 2002 Press Law includes 17 categories of offenses, 3 of which allow for prison sentences. The prime minister declared the Press Law to be "frozen" one week after its issuance; however, the government continues to enforce the law at its discretion.
The government owns and operates all radio and television stations in the country, and these outlets broadcast only official views. In August, the government announced plans to eliminate the Ministry of Information and establish the Bahrain Radio and Television Commission to regulate broadcast media. Print media are privately owned, but they usually exercise self-censorship in articles covering sensitive topics and are subject to harassment by the authorities. According to the U.S. State Department, in May the Ministry of Information confiscated the May 9-15 issues of Al-Mushahid Al-Siyasi magazine, which contained articles on a recent petition for constitutional change.
Broadcast media from neighboring countries are available, though the government continues to ban correspondents from the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera. The government remains the country's only Internet provider, though authorities have recently taken steps to liberalize the telecommunications sector. While usage is generally unrestricted, there are reports of government monitoring e-mails, and access to some opposition political Web sites is occasionally blocked.