3rd Mar, 2013 –
Over the past few days, dozens of global media outlets have being having fun with the story of Bahrain banning the V for Vendetta – Guy Fawkes mask.
Firstly, we question the effectiveness of such a measure. It will be almost impossible to stop those sneaking such masks in their luggage when travelling in to Bahrain, or larger shipments arriving hidden in crates of cargo.
We can now guarantee that every self-respecting protester will want a V-mask, with which to taunt the leadership. What better way to become a cause célèbre than getting arrested for wearing a face mask!
The mask is known to be worn regionally by groups of thugs and hence it symbolizes acts of violence, however we object to this mask ban because it makes Bahrain look ridiculous. For every 100 laudable reform measures, we only need one such measure like this for the opposition and the media to seize on it to present Bahrain as a backward and repressive state – which all of us who live here know to be a lie.
Similarly, when Bahrain has banned certain hostile journalists from entering, this never presents the media from writing about Bahrain. Rather it means that misinformed nonsense is written without journalists getting the opportunity to see the reality – the reality being that most of the time, in most locations Bahrain is stable, safe and prospering.
In a couple of notorious cases we’ve had journalists arriving at the airport, being refused entry and then publishing a lengthy rant about their experience at the airport, or sitting there for hours sending angry tweets to the world at large. The inevitable result is that Bahrain unnecessarily looks bad.
With the exception of the liars and propagandists from the Iranian media who should be kept out; most international journalists have some basic standards of professional integrity. Despite a tendency to sensationalize, if things are improving in Bahrain – and they are – then this will come across (sometimes begrudgingly) in the reporting; if journalists and NGOs are given the opportunity to freely visit.
It is understandable that senior Bahraini officials want to make Bahrain look good, and want to take measures against those who hate Bahrain. However, we mustn’t rush into measures that are obviously counterproductive – the result of which is to cut off your nose to smite your face.
We can be very proud of our country: Bahrain is pleasant, welcoming and tolerant and most people who visit are surprised at how the reality positively differs from expectations.
When journalists visited for the 2012 Formula One Grand Prix, one of the dominant themes of the coverage was how normal and relaxed Manama was. This positive tone came across strongly despite many journalists making a run straight from the airport to the nearest riot hot-spots on order to finish off precooked reports on a state in crisis.
Bahrain cannot prevent negative reporting, and any measures it takes to try and do so will only blow up in the Government’s face.
Likewise, the Government can’t legislate against every brand of face mask that rioters choose to wear. Attempting to play such a game undermines the very real and substantive reforms that the King and his Government have worked so hard to introduce during their terms in office.