This article was issued to mark 3 May World Press Freedom Day
The benefits of civil society for Bahrain and for you
Why does a free media matter to civil society?
A free and independent media is necessary for civil society to flourish. This is because those people active in society have a need to know what is really going on concerning social, political and economic issues.
Furthermore there needs to be a climate of freedom expression, so that individuals involved in civil society can freely discuss their ideas and activities without fear of arrest or intimidation. They also rely on the media to promote their activities and to help cultivate a climate where the general public feels empowered to participate in civil society activities.
Why does a responsible media matter to civil society?
However, with freedom comes responsibility. Particularly in a society composed of a variety of sects, religions and ethnicities; dishonest and inflammatory journalism has on occasions led to civil tensions and even outbreaks of violence.
Civil society groups, particularly those associated with vulnerable or minority groups, need to be able to go about their work without fear of hostile media campaigns or harassment. The media must abide by the highest standards of professional integrity, accuracy and impartiality.
The survival of a free and independent media relies on journalists considering the consequences of what they report: Have I got my facts right? Have I given sufficient context to what I claim? How will different parts of the community understand this report?
This is why there is a need for laws to address libelous claims, hate speech and sectarian incitement. Journalists thus require proper training in order to be able to abide by the highest editorial standards, so as to be conscious of their social and political role.
What does Bahrain’s Constitution say about media freedoms?
According to Bahrain’s 2002 National Action Charter:
“Every citizen shall have the right to express himself orally, in writing or in any other way of expression of personal opinion or creativity. Under this law, freedom of scientific research, publishing, press and printing are ensured within the scope specified by law.”
Bahrain Journalists Association
The Bahrain Journalists Association is the main professional body representing the media across the Kingdom. The Association has its code of standards which it expects those in the profession to abide by and it regularly speaks out on key issues, such as recent calls for an updated media law which protects journalists and makes clear the legal framework for the profession.
According to the Association’s mission statement, it aspires “to seek the advancement and development of the national journalism and the professional and cultural level of the journalists and to protect their rights and defend their interests. To work on ensuring the required freedom for the journalists in order to perform their duties.”
ABC of civil society
UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights