ARTICLE 19 calls on the authorities of Bahrain to drop charges against human rights defender Maytham Al Salman for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
On 8 August, prominent Bahraini inter-faith activist and human rights defender Maytham Al Salman, was arrested at Manama airport, returning to Bahrain after attending a UN conference, and charged with ‘inciting hatred against the system of government’ and ‘disseminating false news’. He was released after 12 hours, pending investigation, but charges against him still stand, and a travel ban is in effect.
Al Salman was arrested in Bahrain after participating in a conference on hate speech organised by the UN Human Rights Council. He is well-known for his work promoting peaceful inter-faith dialogue, free expression and countering incitement to violence and discrimination.
It is thought that he was arrested as a result of recent tweets which promoted equality and non-discrimination, criticising hate speech between Sunnis and Shi’as, in addition to comments during an interview in which he expressed fears that the government could resort to collective punishment in Sitra, a predominantly Shi’a area which has been at the centre of clashes between protesters and security forces. Two policemen were killed in Sitra on 28 July, in an alleged terrorist attack.
Four years after the uprisings in Bahrain, peaceful activists, journalists, and human rights defenders continue to be targeted for their work reporting events, defending human rights, and expressing critical opinions, despite promises of reform. Human rights defenders frequently face long prison sentences on charges of insulting or inciting hatred against the King, government institutions or national symbols.
ARTICLE 19 is concerned that arbitrary arrests, travel bans, and imprisonment of human rights defenders in Bahrain might be a deliberate attempt to hinder the publicising of human rights violations in Bahrain at the international level.
ARTICLE 19 calls for the Bahraini government to cease the harassment of human rights defenders and to immediately drop all charges against Maytham Al Salman, as well as removing the travel ban.