By Andy Sambidge
Information Affairs Authority restructures to boost response to 'false information' about kingdom
Bahrain has set up new units within its Information Affairs Authority to monitor the output of foreign news services and social media, it was announced on Wednesday.
Nawaf Mohammed Al Mawadh, the IAA's director of publication and publishing and acting director of foreign media, said the move was part of a new strategic plan for 2011-15.
Al Mawadh said that the IAA had restructured its directorates and created new ones to "further help project the kingdom’s achievements and respond to false information that some channels broadcast".
He said in comments published by state news agency BPA that new directorates included one for media monitoring, another for media relations and one for social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Al Mawadh said there were "several procedures" that would be undertaken to correct inaccurate stories about Bahrain, without elaborating.
The IAA statement comes just days after Bahrain said it was expelling the Reuters correspondent in the Gulf kingdom.
Frederik Richter, who has been based in the capital Manama since 2008, was told to leave within a week after officials complained Reuters had lacked balance in its reporting during the recent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
In Bahrain, several journalists have been detained since protests began in February which have pitched Shi'ite Muslims, who form a majority of the island's population, against the Sunni monarchy, which accused Shi'ite Iran of fomenting unrest.
Separately, four journalists from Bahrain's only opposition newspaper pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of fabricating news about the security forces' crackdown on anti-government protests in the Gulf island kingdom.
Al Wasat's former editor-in-chief Mansoor al-Jamri, one of the four, told Reuters a judge had added to the charge of fabricating news "the intention of causing instability in Bahrain", punishable by up to two years in jail.
Jamri said that under Bahraini law, the judge can impose a fine instead of a jail sentence on a defendant found guilty of the new charge.
"My response to the charges is that Al Wasat was targeted by a campaign of misinformation and it was attacked," he told Reuters by telephone.
The case was adjourned until June 15 to give defence lawyers time to review the prosecution's evidence, journalists and colleagues who attended the court session said.
It doesn't matter if Iran had an hand or not in recent unrest. Gagging journalists and stifling speech ALWAYS leads to the downfall of those who impose it. No exceptions in recorded history.
It matters when using news items from one country and impose it as happening elsewhere?