Bahraini persecuted journalist gets award

This video says about itself:

3 May 2012

Bahraini journalist, blogger and human rights activist Lamees Dhaif talks about the importance of media freedom at the 2012 UNESCO World Press Freedom Day conference in Tunisia.

By Charley Hannagan, The Post-Standard in the USA:

Bahraini journalist to receive Syracuse University free speech award

Published: Tuesday, October 09, 2012, 1:31 PM Updated: Tuesday, October 09, 2012, 1:46 PM

Syracuse, NY – A journalist who has kept up her criticism of the government in Bahrain despite having her home attacked by pro-government forces will receive the 2012 Tully Award for Freedom of Speech.

Lamees Dhaif, an independent journalist and human rights activist, will receive the award from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications on Oct. 15. The award is given to a journalist who has faced a significant threat to free speech.

The ceremony will be at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse 3. Dhaif will visit classes and meet with students while on campus.

The public event is free. For more information, call Audrey Burian at 443-1930 or

Dhaif has worked for several newspapers in Bahrain, including Akhbar Al-Khaleej, Sadaa Al Isbou’a, Al-Qabas, Al-Afaaq and Al-Waqt.

Following widespread government censorship in response to anti-government protests in the nation’s capital Manama, Dhaif covered the events of the Arab Spring in Bahrain via Twitter, Facebook and her blog. She writes a weekly column for the Saudi newspaper Alyaum, and presents a television program on the Kuwaiti television station Al-Rai.

When she wrote a series uncovering allegations of bias against women in Bahrain’s family courts, a legal complaint was brought against her for insulting the judiciary. The case was dropped, but the government indicated it could revive the charges at anytime.

She was called into court again for criticizing the regime following large-scale anti-government protests in the spring of 2011.

Those charges were also dropped, but pro-government forces with Molotov cocktails attacked her home.

Dhaif has received several awards for her reporting, including a 2008 Excellence Award in Journalism form the Regional Conference on Women. She has also been honored by the Women’s Union at the 2009 International Women’s Day.

Dhaif has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kuwait, several post-graduate degrees in media, a master’s degree in media legislation from Ahlia University in Bahrain and a master’s degree in information and public relations from Cairo University.

The opposition in Bahrain is closely watching the aggravating situation created through opposition-bashing by regime officials in state media and press. The opposition is also following the drawback in governmental statements, after the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, and its latest was the Minister of Justice Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa statement on the conditions for the claimed dialogue, which has not begun yet: here.

4 thoughts on “Bahraini persecuted journalist gets award

  1. Bahrain and UK Sign Defence Cooperation Agreement

    10 : 06 PM – 11/10/2012


    His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander has attended the signing of a defence cooperation agreement bonding Bahrain and the UK.

    Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa sealed the deal with Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond at the headquarters of the British Defence Ministry.

    On this occasion, HRH the Crown Prince welcomed the signing of the agreement, adding that the deal would usher in wider horizons for bilateral military and defence cooperation.

    He stressed the importance of the deal that crowns His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa’s successful visits, which contributed to bolstering bilateral relations and expanding the scope of joint cooperation.

    He also hailed the military cooperation agreement as mirroring deep-rooted historic relations bonding Bahrain and the UK.

    HRH Prince Salman said that Bahrain considers the UK as a key strategic ally, adding that both countries aspire to maintain regional security and stability, promote respect for sovereignty and mutual interests.

    He underscored the pivotal role played by the UK in consolidating security in the Gulf region.
    The agreement aims at consolidating military cooperation between Bahrain and the UK and maintaining security and stability in Bahrain and the region, in addition to providing backing for Bahrain to stave off any external aggression threatening its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

    Under the deal, the two sides pledge to promote cooperation in all fields, including exchanging intelligence and visits, training, education, scientific and technical cooperation and joint training.

    The ceremony was also attended by Royal Court Follow-up Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Ateyatallah Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince’s Court Chief Shaikh Khalifa bin Daij Al-Khalifa and Bahrain Ambassador to the UK Alice Samaan.



  2. Tully Award winner gives voice to her country

    By Erin Kelly, Contributing Writer

    Published October 16, 2012 at 2:05 am

    Bahraini journalist Lamees Dhaif gave up her home, family and country. And she did it all for people she didn’t even know. She did it for all the people in Bahrain.

    She cannot return to her home without risking her life or the lives of her loved ones.

    Dhaif was presented with the Tully Center for Free Speech Award for her courage and fierce dedication to journalism on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium.

    Syracuse University students were given an exclusive insight to Dhaif’s work and the lives of the citizens of Bahrain through a speech, video presentation and Q-and-A session led by Roy Gutterman, the director of the center.

    Dhaif has been dedicated to the oppressed and a voice to the people in her native country.

    “The people have no rights,” she said. “All the power lies within one family. The people are denied their basic human rights and native Bahrainis are treated as second-class citizens.

    Gutterman said the fact that this award exists is sad, as it shows how free speech is lacking in much of the world.

    I’ll stay unemployed for 20 years; I will not crawl back to you

    Lamees Dhaif, Tully award winner

    Dhaif became a journalist to give a voice to the people. She said she wanted to expose the severely corrupt Bahraini regime and how all the county’s serious issues lead right back to the royal family in control.

    Despite Dhaif’s criticisms of the government, the government avidly follows her work.

    Dhaif released a series of articles, “insulting the judiciary” of Bahraini. The articles exposed the bias against women in Bahraini family courts. Dhaif was then fired from the four jobs she held and blacklisted in each of the Gulf regions she worked in.

    Instead of appeasing the government, Dhaif took to social media.

    “I’ll stay unemployed for 20 years; I will not crawl back to you,” she said.

    Social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Dhaif’s blog allowed her to continue covering Bahrain’s Arab Spring without the pressures of harsh government censorship.

    But because of her work, Dhaif is no longer safe in Bahrain.

    In an interview with The Daily Orange, Dhaif divulged the details of her struggles not only with government censorship, but also the criticism she faces as a woman in this line of work.

    “The punishment is double for the lady,” Dhaif said. “You have to give double the effort. You have to be courageous to do this. You are not only facing your government, you are facing society.”

    Dhaif compared being a journalist to being a prophet, because journalism is the voice of her people. She advised all aspiring journalists to believe in what they do because journalism is not about fame or money.

    “Journalism is about caring not only about the people you live among,” Dhaif said. “It is also about the generation that is not born yet. You are the eye that looks deep into society and those who possess society’s moral compass.”

    Gutterman finished the evening with a question for Dhaif: What’s next?

    “I choose my path,” Dhaif said. “And I will keep walking on it till the end. To the end of the case or the end of me, whichever comes first. This is my country and I will be there. My body is out, but my soul is stuck there.”



    Lamees Dhaif’s statement for her Tully Award nomination

    By The Post-Standard

    on October 15, 2012 at 7:55 PM, updated October 15, 2012 at 10:17 PM

    Here is a statement written by Lamees Dhaif of Bahrain after she was nominated for the 2012 Tully Award for Free Speech at Syracuse University. Dhaif endured threats and exile to continue reporting on her government’s actions. Her statement supplements our coverage of her acceptance tonight of the Tully award.

    I am Lamees Dhaif, a 34-year old journalist from the Kingdom of Bahrain. I became a journalist and thus continued in this career because I perceive it as the most ideal tool to influence and thus change what I dislike in my community, whether it was about the social layers, injustice, or oppression. I did not know, however, that I was giving up my chance in living a normal life like others my age in Bahrain.

    I see myself ‘gifted’ in the field of media because I have the ability to influence my audience whether they were readers or television viewers. People perceive this gift as the path to Ali Baba’s treasure. From one side, a good journalist is showered by monetary and non-monetary gifts from the government in countries like mine. He/she can be given official and non-official posts in the country in addition to the fact that the requirements of the journalist and his/her family will be dealt with immediately. This of course takes place if the journalist cleverly uses his/her gift in benefitting the country’s officials and refraining from pointing out it’s flaws and wrongdoings. However, if the journalist uses this gift to defend human rights and those oppressed by the government, then this means that this person will be targeted in his/her job as well as his/her life. I am a living example of this type.

    After several years in the field of journalism, and to be exact when I became well known for my critical writing in 2004, I refused to cooperate with the various tools of the official media. I thus became a critical writer mainly in issues regarding corruption and all the issues that branch from it. As my popularity increased, so did the ways to ‘buy’ my pen using all sorts of gifts as well as the irritations that I received from the authority. My daily articles were suspended from publication regularly from a period ranging from one to ten days.

    In 2008, I became one of the most influential journalists in Bahrain with a popularity spanning the Gulf region. The officials thus realized that I would not bow to them nor will they be able to stop me in the path that I chose. I refused to become a member of the orchestrated-writers who follow the orders of the ruling family. As a result, they tried to exert more pressure on me by harassing me to the extent that a lawsuit was filed against me in the supreme court, an unprecedented lawsuit of this type in my country. The lawsuit was filed against me because I wrote about the sexual scandals involving the judges of the court themselves. These judges were supposed to be religious scholars!! The series of articles that I wrote in this issue stirred a lot of noise in the community, and this allowed more women to come forward and tell their stories. I refused to apologize for my writings and I was about to be sentenced for three years, but the court stopped the case fearing that I might bring more scandals forward to the public.

    In 2009, the pressure that was mounted against me reached it’s climax to the extent that the authority finally terminated the newspaper that I write in. Therefore, all the other local newspapers refused to hire me. My readers insisted that I continue writing so I did, and I asked my readers to register their names if they would like to receive my articles on a weekly basis via email. In a matter of a few months, the subscribers reached 51,000 in addition to 17,000 in my Facebook pages. Earlier this year, I initiated a twitter account and my followers to date are over 42,000. Thus I became more like an independent newspaper myself especially that the printed newspapers in Bahrain do not exceed 12,000 copies each. This transformed me into an enemy that needs to be crushed by the regime.

    Because I need a source of income, I started to write in the newspapers of some Gulf countries. Four newspapers hired me in the same period of time. Although this kept me busy, I continued to write a weekly article for my readers in Bahrain that I am not paid for.

    Things were hard but bearable. However, when the protests erupted in Bahrain on February 14th, my life became in danger. I clearly stated my opinion when the regime violently attacked the weaponless protesters and even managed to kill some of them and even asked for the help of the army of neighboring countries to help in this attack.

    My frank opinions allowed me to become targeted and threatened by the pro-government militias. My home was attacked with molotov cocktails twice. This endangered me and my family. The regime took extreme measures to trash my reputation and spread rumors intensively regarding my ethics. This of course is worse than being killed in an Eastern society. They threatened to kill and kidnap me to the extent that a ruling family member named Mohmmed Al-Khalifa threatened me publicly on his Facebook account stating that he would “cut me into half”. I formally reported all types of harassment to the public security office but they did not investigate them.

    What was worse than this was the fact that all of my family members were targeted by the regime, an indirect way to take revenge from me. I was also targeted in my source of income. I lost all the jobs that I once had because of the influence of the regime on neighboring countries. I am still unemployed for the same reason. Things did not stop here. An electronic game was programmed and spread widely on the internet picturing myself together with 13 political members of the opposition in which the player points to and thus shoots the appearing pictures. This shows how the regime spreads indirectly intends to kill all members of the opposition.

    In addition to all this, my sister, Dr Nada Dhaif was arrested and tortured together with other medics. I can give you full details of the case later on if you wish.

    This is a brief summary of what I have been (and is still) going through. I do not want you to worry or feel sorry about me. I am a warrior who will not break because every time I get close to being broken, I remember those who need me, my pen, and my voice. I promised them that I will not give up on them or let them down, and I am willing to keep this promise the longest I possibly can.

    Winning this prize, as I hope to, should be a strong message to the regime in my country and a hopeful one for my readers and my audience. I have had a bad year so far, the worst of previous hard ones. But I wish to continue whatever the price that I am going to pay. Whether my career in this field improves or not, I will remain a fork that irritates the tyrants who oppress merciless people. All the threats will only make me stronger and they will cease to do what they were intended to just as the previous ones tried to buy me and thus failed.

    Lamees Dhaif

    Connect with Lamees Dhaif on Facebook or follow her on Twitter, @LameesDhaif.



    Lamees Dhaif, journalist from Bahrain, wins free speech award at Syracuse University

    By Stan Linhorst / The Post-Standard

    on October 15, 2012 at 8:31 PM, updated October 15, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    Syracuse, N.Y. — Lamees Dhaif, a 34-year-old journalist from Bahrain, won the 2012 Tully Award for Free Speech tonight at Syracuse University.

    Dhaif won the award for not backing down from violence and intimidation intended to silence her reporting. At a ceremony tonight in Syracuse, she described repeated government threats, the jailing of her family, and a hasty exile that forces her to “live out of my bags.” She described watching her house burn down after pro-government forces firebombed it with Molotov cocktails. Government officials repeatedly told her to stop reporting, and she described how one member of the all-powerful royal family told her he would have her cut in half.

    The award is presented annually to journalists like Lamees by the Tully Center for Free Speech in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. It is given to a journalist who has faced a significant free speech threat.

    Dhaif has worked for several newspapers in Bahrain, a small country on the Persian Gulf, including Akhbar Al-Khaleej, Sadaa Al Isbou’a, Al-Qabas, Al-Afaaq and Al-Waqt.

    She said she began her professional career in 2005. She first reported on radical Islamists and then began reporting on widespread government corruption. Both topics resulted in pressures to keep quiet but intimidation and violence started in earnest as she reported on the 2011 Arab Spring movement in Bahrain.

    She was branded as an “lying witch” and quickly blacklisted from media throughout the Persian Gulf. Following the widespread government censorship, Dhaif turned to Twitter, Facebook and her blog

    Earlier, Dhaif endured several cultural and legal challenges to free speech. For instance, she was discouraged from pursuing journalism as a career unsuitable for a woman. She was told if she thought reporting was important work, she should have her brother or another male relative do it. According to a news release accompanying her award, in 2009, she was accused in a legal complaint of insulting the judiciary after she wrote a series uncovering allegations of bias against women in Bahrain’s family courts. Though the case was dropped, officials made it clear that they could revive the charges at any time.

    In 2011, after the large-scale anti-government protests, Dhaif was again called into court for criticizing the regime, according to the release. These charges were also dropped, but the stakes were raised when the pro-government forces burned her home.

    Despite these threats, she remained unbowed in her criticism of the government’s attempts to suppress the protest movement. In addition to her large social media audience and reporting published on her blog, she also writes a weekly column for the Saudi newspaper Alyaum and presents a television program on the Kuwaiti television station Al-Rai. During her speech at tonight’s ceremony, Dhaif showed a film she made, graphically showing the deaths of protest members who had been shot by police.

    During her talk in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium on campus, Dhaif touched on several topics. Among them:

    Arab Spring:
    “I think our Arab Spring is our bridge to the future,” she said. She said the government has modernized the looks of the country with modern buildings and cars. “But if you look closely, you’ll see countries living in the 17th Century.” She said education is making a difference. “Now, we have citizens that are smarter and more sophisticated than our government,” she said. “It’s time for us to step up and for them to step down.” She predicted it will take a decade for the full effects of this revolution to blossom. She reminded her audience that America has more than two centuries of experience with representative democracy, and her region of the world has had none. “We are like infants,” she said.

    Covering Bahrain from exile:
    Dhaif said she depends on a network of people to keep her informed. She uses email and video conferencing through tools like Skype. In some ways, she said, it is easier, because inside Bahrain she was tracked and her contacts were monitored.

    On employment as a journalist:
    Dhaif has been unable to find traditional, paying jobs because the government controls media outlets. “I’m working for the people — they’re my bosses,” she said. She described the inspiration of working for people around the country who have suffered at the hands of police and who have lost family members to prison or killings. “They don’t give me money for working for them. They give me something more important,” she said. “They give me their faith.”

    The power of the Internet:
    “The Internet makes all the difference,” she said. She now has more than 100,000 follows on Twitter. She described how the govenrment spends millions of dollars to block access to Internet sites and specific subjects, but people — “usually a 16-year-old boy” — figure out how open it up.

    Other nominees

    Other nominees for this year’s Tully award were:
    » Mary Luz Avendano, El Espectador, Colombia.
    » Maziar Bahari, journalist and filmmaker, Iran and Canada.
    » Juan Carlos Calderon, Vanguardia, Ecuador.
    » Carlos Correa, Espacio Publico, Venezuela.
    » Stephane Goue, The Ivorian Committee to Protect Journalists, Ivory Coast.
    » Ngwe Soe Lin, Democratic Voice of Burma, Burma.
    » Cesar Ricaurte, Fundamedios, Ecuador.
    » Sonali Samarasinghe, Lanka Standard, Sri Lanka.

    In statement supporting her Tully Award nomination, Dhaif wrote: “I will remain a fork that irritates the tyrants who oppress merciless people. All the threats will only make me stronger.” You can read her full statement here on


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