BAHRAIN: The Pen Is Mightier than a Kalashnikov

AHMAD ALKHUZAM WRITES – Justice may be served, but at a smaller price to the criminals than anticipated.

The Associated Press reported October 27 that a Bahraini court had cut the sentences — from seven years down to three — of two police officers convicted of killing journalist Abdul Karim Fakhrawi. Fakhrawi was a co-founder of AlWasat, Bahrian’s leading opposition newspaper. According to AlWasat, Fakhrawi went to a police station on April 3, 2011 to question cops about the raiding of his home. He then went missing for 9 days and was reported dead on April 12.

The government-funded Bahraini Independent Commission for Inquiry (BICI) confirmed in its November 2011 report that the police officers had tortured Fakrawi, resulting in his death.

AlWasat, established in late 2002, is the first newspaper containing opposition viewpoints. It was ranked in 2010 by Forbes Middle East as number 15 in the top online newspapers in the Middle East. Further, the Committee to Protect Journalists presented the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief its annual International Press Freedom Award in 2011. The newspaper began to peak in popularity during the beginning of the uprising, and the government has tried to shut it down completely on the basis of providing “false information.” The current King introduced reforms permitting AlWasat to continue operating, only for it to become the most popular newspaper with 60,000 daily readers.

As the regime soon discovered that the pen is truly mightier than the sword, it began terrorizing writers and journalists to limit the public’s exposure to unflattering stories about the government. Fakhrawi fell victim to such practice. It’s unsettling that the punishment for this case has been reduced. But the government should be aware that killing a writer may make his columns resonate in the minds of the people for eternity.

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