I was supposed to be in Bahrain this past weekend to lead an international freedom of expression mission with representatives of several prominent advocacy groups, including the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Committee to Protect Journalists, PEN International, Index on Censorship, and Reporters Without Borders. However, after approving our mission in early April, and even offering to arrange meetings with relevant officials, Bahrain’s Ministry of Human Rights and Social Development decided to deny permission for the joint mission just days before we were to depart, meaning our organizations had already incurred travel and other expenses. The letter we received cited “new guidelines” that prohibit more than one organization from visiting at a time, and assured us that this was “merely an organizational matter.” But given that this is the second time this year that Freedom House has been denied entry to Bahrain, the ministry’s explanation seems rather dubious.
Paula Schriefer, Freedom House’s vice president for global programs, recently addressed a gathering of colleagues as she prepared to bring her 18-year career with the organization to a close. Read an adaptation of her remarks.
The offices of Freedom House, along with those of 10 other organizations, were raided and closed by Egyptian police on December 29th. Since then, the assault on Egyptian civil society has intensified, and pressure on U.S. democracy organizations in Egypt has grown. In an attempt to justify its actions, the Egyptian government has engaged in an aggressive campaign of misinformation about what is taking place. In response, we offer the following fact sheet.