By Courtney Trenwith
Gov't said to spend millions of dollars in an effort to improve reputation amid continuing protests
Bahrain has spent millions of dollars on public relations in a bid to counter negative international coverage of alleged human rights abuses, a state-appointed human rights representative has claimed.
National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR) vice-chairman Abdulla Al Deerazi said the money would have been better spent improving the situation in the country than on an international war of words, local daily Gulf Daily News reported.
Bahrain has come under intense scrutiny since unrest sparked in 2011.
Several deaths have been attributed to violent protests in the capital Manama while the government has been accused of suppressing freedoms to avoid an Arab Spring-style uprising.
The country’s Formula 1 race was cancelled in 2011 but went ahead in 2012 and 2013, despite calls for the island kingdom to be stripped of its rights to host the lucrative international event.
The government added fuel to the fire in May when it postponed indefinitely a visit by United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez.
Al Deerazi said Bahrain had been a victim of negative reporting by some international groups, but conceded the government response to the criticism often exacerbated it.
"Global human rights groups criticise countries and it is for these countries to improve themselves internally," Al Deerazi told Gulf Daily News.
"If it requires investigation then do it and respond properly.”
He said the millions of dollars believed to have been spent by the government on defending international media reports could have been better served internally on social infrastructure rather than defending “propaganda campaigns” waged by “political activists”.
“We could have silenced all the critics, who would be praising us,” he said.
"Let us do our homework inside and then let's see who criticises us."
However, Al Deerazi sided with the government in saying the reality in Bahrain was often not as bad as was portrayed internationally.
"The last session of the National Dialogue was positive and this is a good sign," he said.
"There is no way out but to engage in these talks that will shape Bahrain and its future.
"We will live temporarily and go, but Bahrain stays forever and it is up to all of us to make this country number one."
The NIHR was established by King Hamad in 2008 but questions have been raised over the credibility and independence of the institution, with allegations some appointees also hold government positions.