14th Apr, 2013 –

Suddenly the Western media has woken up and remembered that another Grand Prix is to take place in Bahrain in a few days.

And although the state of affairs has been calmer than usual this past weekend, do not expect to read a report saying: “The situation is calm, things are fine, and people are excited for the Grand Prix!”

Instead, journalists are talking about how Bahrain is still in a state of turmoil, and there are questions as to whether the event should even take place at all.

In actual fact, Bahrain seems to have just had its quietest weekend on record. The Bahraini Government granted licenses to a couple of large rallies, so protesters who attended were able to let off some steam; while the rest of us enjoyed a calm couple of days, with only a few minor fights with the police being reported.

De-facto leader of the protest movement, Ali Salman, told the media: “We do not want to hold up the race, but we are trying to benefit from the increased media presence.”

Reading between the lines, Salman is saying: We accept that the Formula One is going ahead, of course it’s a good and necessary event for Bahrain – but let’s make as much fuss and noise as we can while we have the media’s attention.

Human Rights Watch got very upset last week that a handful of militants who had threatened to engage in violence and attacks during the event had been quietly rounded up. Would anybody disagree that this is not a prudent and sensible step? Would any country tolerate threats of terrorist attacks during a major international sports event?

The CNN quoted Nada Dhaif in an article on the Bahrain F1 saying, “Most detainees are activists in the fields of journalism and photography.” If journalism and photography involve filming police officers while your friends attack them with petrol bombs and set tires on fire, than detainment of these “activists” is well warranted, especially during this crucial time of year in Bahrain.  

If the international media wanted to be intellectually honest, they would report clearly that there is a National Dialogue process going on that the mainstream opposition is an active part of – even if they are guilty of dragging their feet. There is a peaceful way out of this crisis, if all sides have the necessary political will.

However, amidst the flurry of false and exaggerated reports, small gems of truth seldom surface. In an article published by the Independent, the author had mentioned that “The Independent’s investigations during last year’s events revealed an often-overlooked point: many Sunnis and Shias agree that the race is crucial to the Gulf kingdom’s economic wellbeing, and that without it the already inflamed situation would only be exacerbated.”

Last year, the world’s media arrived in Bahrain to cover the Grand Prix, and many journalists – before they even had a chance to go to their hotel to shower and freshen up – made a run for the nearest protest hot-spot to cover some minor confrontations with the police in order to secure themselves some sensationalist footage.

However, for all this effort, many of the more honest journalists were commenting by the end of events that they were astounded how “normal” and “calm” Bahrain felt, with the exception of a few tiny corners of discontent – and doesn’t every country have a few of those.

If the media takes the time to speak to ordinary Bahrainis, the message will come across loud and clear that most Bahrainis are excited about the Grand Prix, they see that their country benefits greatly from the event and they are proud to see this small country in the limelight – even if there are small numbers of rioters and militants out to spoil things for us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.