4 US reporters arrested in Bahrain while covering uprising anniversary - media

© Hamad I Mohammed
Bahrain has arrested four US citizens accusing them of “illegal activities” such as attacking security forces, reported the country’s interior ministry. The detained appear to be journalists who had been covering the anniversary of the 2011 Bahraini uprising.

“The General Director of Capital Governorate Police announced on Monday the arrest of four US nationals,” the ministry’s statement said, adding that one of them was female.

According to the statement, one of the arrestees “participated in attacks on the police officers” wearing a mask during the “riots” that broke out in Bahrain’s capital of Manama on Sunday. Anti-government protesters had been marking the fifth anniversary of a violently suppressed uprising which happened in in 2011. It ended in clashes with police.

Three more US citizens were later arrested at a security checkpoint in the same area. According to the General Director, all four detainees violated the country’s rules by providing false information on the purpose of their visit and claiming they were tourists as they entered Bahrain “between February 11 and 12.”

The ministerial statement also says that “at least some of the arrestees were in the country as members of the international media” adding that they had not registered with the relevant authorities and obtained media visas, providing no further details about their identities or about the organizations they work for.

According to AP, all four US citizens were journalists covering the anniversary of Bahrain’s 2011 uprising while they were working in the Sitra village not far from the Bahraini capital. Police first arrested a photographer working with the group and then the other reporters, AP reported citing anonymous witnesses.

"The four are suspected of offenses including entering Bahrain illegally ... (submitting) false information to border staff and participating in an unlawful gathering. They have been afforded full legal rights in line with the kingdom's procedures and constitution while investigations continue,” AP reported citing the Arabic version of the ministry’s statement.

Later in the day, Reporters Without borders confirmed the detained US nationals were experienced journalists and identified them as Anna Day and three members of her camera crew. The team is said to have most recently worked on virtual reality documentaries in Egypt and Gaza

In their statement, Reporters Without Borders demanded to release the four "rapidly and without harm".

A spokesperson for Day's family also rejected the four could be involved in any illegal behavior or non-journalistic activities, Reuters reports.

The US Embassy in Bahrain said it was aware of Sunday’s arrests but refused to reveal any information concerning the issue citing privacy concerns.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency said the journalists had “been afforded full legal rights in line with the kingdom’s procedures and constitution while investigations continue.”

The weekend’s demonstrations were organized by Shia forces throughout the island kingdom as part of a day of “civil disobedience against the regime.” That was the latest incident in a series of protests in the country, where the Shiite-majority population is ruled by a Sunni royal family.

The 2011 demonstrations in Bahrain were some of the largest in the Gulf States during the Arab Spring with the protesters demanding from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to grant them more political rights.

After several waves of mass protests, the Bahraini monarchy launched a brutal crackdown against demonstrators killing dozens of people and injuring more than 3,000 during a military operation in February 2011.

Bahrain is an ally of the US and hosts its 5th Fleet.