A new documentary broadcast by the BBC gives a highly misleading portrayal of developments in Bahrain, through wholesale reliance on information from hardcore opposition elements with a clear political agenda, and a consistent track record of systematic bias.

The BBC documentary “Breaking the silence” states that Bahrain is one of the most secretive states in the region, yet it also acknowledges that the King ordered an independent commission of inquiry which transparently investigated the events that took place in 2011, and the government accepted the findings of the report that was presented to the King. Secretive states do not usually order international, independent commissions to investigate traumatic domestic events.

The documentary also notes the millions of foreign visitors every year, who can easily travel everywhere within this small state. These are hardly the hallmarks of a “secretive” regime.

While there were indeed many Bahrainis in February 2011 justifiably calling for reform; hardliners within the opposition from day one pursued an open agenda of regime change. In particular, those elements which came together as a “Coalition for a Republic,” which advocated deposition of the monarchy and an Iran-style republic based on Islamic principles. It was these hardline elements which succeeded in hijacking the protest movement and dragging it in a confrontational and sectarian direction. With Iranian funding and smuggled weapons, this “uprising” mutated into an armed campaign, using terrorist bombings in an unsuccessful attempt to destabilize the Kingdom. 

It is true that “journalists were denied access to the country” since 2011. However, this has primarily been due to the failure of individual journalists to abide to Bahrain’s laws, or in some cases their establishments’ failure to cover the protests fairly in 2011. It is also worth noting that hundreds of international journalists have entered Bahrain since 2011 through legal channels; most recently a crew from France 24 that produced a report highly critical of the government ‘Bahrain – Reforming the economy but inequalities remain’.

Many journalists who are denied access either dishonestly entered on tourist visas, and then went ahead and covered protests. Or they were completely biased towards the opposition, while sidelining all other elements of society in their coverage. Footage from Breaking the silence also shows the BBC crew or those accompanying them saying We don’t have to seem suspicious, even if they come here we will tell them we are tourists”.

This is the kind of irresponsible behaviour that gets some journalists into trouble and denies them access into a country like Bahrain. Every country has a law which should be respected by the BBC and others.

Elements of the Western media have an unfortunate track record of uncritically giving a mouthpiece to opposition elements which have consistently lied and exaggerated about events in Bahrain. The opposition has systematically sought to discredit and embarrass Bahrain in the international arena with unverifiable and sometimes demonstrably false allegations. 

BBC’s misleading translation of Syed Ahmed Al Wadaei’s interview

“They own and control all the country’s resources When I was eighteen, the Ministry of Education “allowed” me to leave the country to study, Because I was one of the top students in Bahrain And I started my educational journey at Brighton University، graduated with a degree in electronic engineering I worked in Britain for a year then in 2010, I returned to Bahrain.”   [is this correct? Somehow this doesn’t seem to make sense]

BBC’s English translation of Syed Ahmed Al Wadaei’s interview fails to mention that he was not “allowed” to leave Bahrain but he was actually on government scholarship i.e the government of Bahrain paid for his education in the UK. This is most certainly his right as an outstanding Bahraini student, but also a privilege that many Bahrainis don’t get to enjoy. Although on government scholarship, Syed Ahmed Al Wadaei continued his career in Britain hence there were no preconditions to his scholarship by the government of Bahrain, a government he accuses of practicing sectarianism and marginalisation towards Bahraini Shia. Quite a privilege! 

Yes we face an issue with unemployment. However, we also have free education, free healthcare and outstanding students many of whom are Shia get scholarships as was the case with Syed Ahmed Al Wadaei.

Najah Yousif and Ebtisam Al Saegh

Bahrain has established several bodies that look into claims of sexual abuse in detention and other human rights violations. The Ombudsman office, Prisoners and Detainees rights commission and the National Institution for Human Rights are the right channels to file complaints in such cases. We believe that these organisations and the authorities will take the right measures if evidence of the torture allegations is presented to them.

As Bahrainis, we value the partnership we have with the United Kingdom and we are certain that the trainings our police forces and other organisations have received in the UK is of added value to bringing peace and stability to our nation, following 2011.

We hope that this continues as it has reflected positively on our country. We also hope that the BBC continues to shed light on issues that are of importance to our country and society and not to play a divisive and biased role as it is a highly respected organisation.

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