Bahrain suspends online version of opposition-linked newspaper

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jan 16, 2017 12:49 PM

DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahraini authorities have suspended the online version of the opposition-linked al-Wasat newspaper until further notice, accusing it of publishing materials that threaten national unity, state news agency BNA reported on Monday.

Bahrain's only independent daily is associated with the mainly Shi'ite Muslim-led opposition, which has been facing a government crackdown since last year. It is the second time the newspaper has been closed since last August.

"The newspaper has repeatedly published and broadcast material that causes a rift in society and (promotes) a spirit of division that harms national unity and public order," the information ministry said in a statement carried by BNA.

A newspaper employee confirmed that the online edition, including online services, had been suspended but said the print edition had been allowed to continue.

Western-allied Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based, crushed mass protests by the country's Shi'ite majority in 2011.

The government has been waging a crackdown on the opposition since last year, closing down the main opposition al-Wefaq group, increasing a prison sentence against its leader, arresting prominent activist Nabeel Rajab and revoking the citizenship of Shi'ite spiritual leader Ayatollah Isa Qassim.

On Sunday, Bahrain put to death three Shi'ite men convicted of a bomb attack that killed three policemen, including an Emirati officer, in the first such execution in years.

Al-Wasat, founded by private investors in 2002, was briefly closed in 2015 and the government cited similar reasons then. It was also briefly shut in 2011 following anti-government protests in the Gulf island kingdom, and its senior staff were removed and prosecuted.

The paper is headed by Mansoor al-Jamri, one of three senior editors who was tried on charges of fabricating news when the paper reported the protests, led by the Shi'ites against the government of the Sunni Muslim ruling family.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Gareth Jones)