Bahrain | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2009

2009 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

  • Despite constitutional protections guaranteeing freedom of expression and of the press, the government continued to restrict the rights of the media.
  • Bahrain’s Press Law contains 17 categories of offenses and prescribes up to five years’ imprisonment for publishing material that criticizes Islam or the king, inciting actions that undermine state security, or advocating a change in government. There is no law guaranteeing freedom of information.
  • Government censorship is widespread. The Ministry of Information (MOINFO) may legally censor and prevent the distribution of local and foreign publications, close newspapers through court proceedings, ban books and films, block websites, and prosecute individuals. In January, the ministry banned a novel by Bahraini author Abdulla Khalifa because the book purportedly defamed the second Islamic caliph, Omar Ibn al-Khattab.
  • Self-censorship is also common, owing largely to the fear of legal battles over slander or false reporting.
  • Print media in Bahrain are all privately owned. There are six daily newspapers—four in Arabic and two in English—some of which are critical of the government. While there are no state-owned papers, MOINFO exercises considerable control over the privately owned publications.
  • The government has a monopoly on all broadcast media. Radio and television broadcasts are received generally without interference, and approximately 99 percent of households have access to satellite stations.
  • Some 35 percent of Bahrain’s population had regular access to the internet in 2008, and unlike in previous years, e-mail use was reportedly not monitored. However, there is concern over the government’s growing restrictions and interference with the internet. All websites are required to register with MOINFO, and religious and political content is heavily censored. Website administrators face the same libel laws that apply to print journalists, and they are held jointly responsible for all content posted on their websites or chat rooms. On June 28, the government detained six Shiite opposition political society members for publishing material on the internet that allegedly incited “hatred against the government” and sectarianism. Authorities released them after 20 hours. On July 2, the case was suspended in exchange for their promise to post no more inflammatory content. After their release, the detainees showed signs of having been subjected to beatings and ill-treatment.